To Be Called
By Gibberish

Title:  To Be Called
Author: Gibberish
Disclaimer: They belong to Joss, Mutant Enemy and the WB.
Rating:  PG-13 -maybe R     B/G  
Spoilers:  Through the End of Season 4.
Summary:  A future Slayer enters the life of the present one. Can Buffy and
Giles keep her safe until she's called?
Distribution: Solo, Jessica, Sai, Cassandra, Sal and WYWM. Anyone else, please ask.
Feedback: Be kind
Notes: <Thoughts> *Emphasis*  {Written words. Book/Letters}

         Buffy walked into the first cemetery of the night. Not ten feet inside, she heard the distinct sound of a vampire growl. It was supposed to be quiet in the summer, she thought as she ran, pulling a stake out as she went.

 The vampire drained the man, threw him aside and turned on the girl. He was knocked to the ground from the side.

 "Pick on someone your own size." Buffy said calmly. She watched as he stood.

"Okay, someone closer to your own size." She struck a blow to his face with her hand and managed to cut her palm on his fangs. In a moment, she'd dusted him. She turned and found the girl fighting off a second vampire.

 Erin fought the vampire as hard as she could. She felt his fangs tear through her hand. "That hurt." She yelled and pushed. She and the vampire were both surprised went he was knocked off of her. Erin scrambled to her feet and backed away. She saw him turn to dust and the lady that had gotten the other vampire was there.

 Buffy grabbed the little girl's hand and moved the girl behind her. Buffy felt something akin to an electric shock run up her arm from where their hands touched. Buffy felt the girl's body jerk and knew that she'd felt it, too. With the girl behind her, Buffy kicked out at the charging vampire, pulled a stake from her boot and staked him.

 Buffy felt more vampires nearby. She checked the guy's pulse. There was none.

 "He's dead, isn't he?" Erin asked her.

 Buffy nodded. She heard a rustling in the brush. "We will be, too, if we don't get out of here." She picked the girl up and wrapped her arms around her neck, her legs around her waist and ran.

 Giles' was closest, so she headed there.

   Giles was in the kitchen, in the midst of making tea, when the door flew open. He dropped the kettle and turned. He saw Buffy, her breath coming in gasps, and in her arms was a little girl. They both had blood on them.

"Buffy, my God."  He moved quickly from the kitchen to Buffy and took the girl into his own arms. "How badly are you hurt?"

 "Not bad." Buffy assured him as they made their way to the couch. She watched Giles gently set the girl on the couch and inspect her hand. "She's a Slayer." Buffy said quietly.

 Giles' eyes shot to hers. "She's too young to be a Slayer."

 "Then, she *will* be a Slayer." Buffy told him.

 "How do you know?" Giles asked.

 "I know." Buffy told him.

 Giles looked at the girl. Then, he looked at her closer. Dark blonde hair and green eyes. She met his eyes clearly. He picked up her hand and examined it. "It's already begun to heal."

 Buffy held out her own hand and showed it to him. "Mine, too." She looked at the girl. "What's your name?"

 "Erin." She said.

 "Just Erin?" Buffy asked.

 "Erin Temple." She responded.

 "How old are you, Erin?" Giles asked.

 "Eight." Erin told him.

 Buffy sat next to her. "Why were you in the cemetery?" Buffy asked.

 "Looking for you." Erin told her. "Mr. Thomas didn't know how else to find you. He knew you were here, but that's all. He said you could save me."

 "Save you from what?" Giles asked.

 "The Council." Erin said.

 "Oh good Lord." Giles breathed.

 Erin reached into her pocket and pulled out a bloody letter. She handed it to Buffy. "He wrote that in case ..."

 Buffy took the letter and opened it. She read it, then handed it to Giles, her eyes flashing angrily. She stood and held out her hand to Erin. "Come on, let's get cleaned up." Buffy took Erin to the bathroom.

 Giles read the letter three times and he still couldn't believe it. The Council wanted to eliminate this child. Erin had been found too late to be properly trained. Buffy had been fifteen and already the Slayer when Merrick had found her and look at what she'd accomplished. But, of course, that was the problem. The Council couldn't control Buffy and they didn't want it to happen again. What had they come to, that they would kill an eight year old little girl, simply to preserve their power? A little girl who hadn't even challenged them. Giles crumpled the letter in his hands. A little girl who looked enough like Buffy that she could have been Buffy at that age.

   Buffy rummaged around and found an old T-shirt of hers for Erin to wear to sleep in. After cleaning themselves up, Buffy helped her put it on. Erin could barely keep her eyes open. Buffy picked her up and carried her back to the couch, by the time they reached it, Erin was asleep with her head on Buffy's shoulder.

 Giles watched with an odd expression as Buffy laid Erin gently on the couch. He smiled when he saw Buffy brush back a lock of Erin's hair.

 Buffy tucked the afghan around her and gestured Giles into the kitchen.

"What kind of monsters are on that Council? She's just a baby for God's sake."

 "I don't know anymore, Buffy." Giles told her. "I thought I did. Once." They both kept their voices down.

 "Those vampires were after her." Buffy told him.

 "Word must have gotten out." Giles commented. "The names of future Slayers are guarded, just so that sort of thing won't happen."

 "Something happened out there, Giles." Buffy told him. "When I took her hand ... It was like a bolt of electricity went through my arm to the rest of my body. Only, it didn't hurt. And I'm sure that she felt it, too."

 Giles looked confused and worried. "A bolt of electricity? How? Why?"

 Buffy shrugged. "I don't know. You're knowledge guy."

 "Knowledge guy, is it?" Giles retorted. "Sorry to disappoint you, but I've never heard of anything like that between Slayers. Or Slayers to be."

 "Another illusion shattered." Buffy said with a grin. She moved to the far wall of the kitchen so that she could see the couch. "What do we do?"

 "What we always do." Giles told her. "First thing in the morning, we'll rally the troops." He moved to put a hand on Buffy's shoulder. "It's very possible that they'll be coming for you, as well."

 Buffy shook her head. "I won't let them hurt her." She met Giles' eyes. "They send us out. They take away our lives long before we're dead. Every minute of every day is a fight for survival. If it's not against the demons, it's a fight to remain sane through all the killing. I'm nineteen years old and I've seen more death than a war veteran. But I do it. I fight the monsters. What do they do? They sit on their butts, a half a world away, telling me that I'm not good enough. Now, they're out to kill a little girl to make sure they don't lose their control, their power. How are they different than the vampires?"

 "They're human." Giles said.

 "Are they?" Buffy asked. "I don't think so. Snyder had more humanity in him than they do. As far as I can see, they're no different than any of the other monsters I fight."

 "Buffy, ..."

 "She's eight years old, Giles." Buffy said. "We're not people to them. This isn't about saving the world, or humanity. It's about them saving face by killing a little girl. And who knows how many others. How many little girls have they already killed? Do you really think that Erin is the only one? The first, last and only. We are not their weapons to be used as they see fit. I'm the Slayer. It's about time they found out what that meant."

   The next morning Buffy was awakened by the door opening and closing and the sudden sound of voices. She'd been awake most of the night, had only allowed herself to rest around dawn. She stood and stretched, wearing one of Giles' shirts and her track pants. She blinked her eyes at the sudden quiet.


 Willow, Xander, Anya and Tara all looked at her. "Um, that's Giles' shirt. Why are you wearing Giles' shirt?" Willow asked.

 "If this is what Giles felt was so important to talk about, I'm not sure I want to know." Xander said.

 "Giles called already?" Buffy asked. She rubbed her eyes. "I've got to start getting more sleep."

 "Too much information." Xander told her.

 "So, what did Giles want to talk about?" Anya asked.

 "Where is Giles?" Willow asked.

 "He went to buy me some clothes." Erin said from the hallway. She made her way to Buffy's side and slipped her hand into hers.

 Buffy smiled down at her. "How did he get out without me hearing him?"

 "He was careful." Erin told her. "He didn't know I was awake, but I had to ... You know. He watched us sleep for a while. He looked kinda worried and happy at the same time. He asked me to let you sleep 'cause you and him were up so late."

 Xander opened his mouth to comment, but thought better of it.

 "You want to meet my friends?" Buffy asked her. Erin nodded eagerly. Buffy led her over to Giles' desk, where they all stood. "Willow and Tara." Buffy gestured to them. "Xander and Anya." She gestured to them. Buffy stood behind Erin and put her hands on Erin's shoulders. "This is Erin."

 Giles walked in with several bags. "Oh, good, everyone's here."

 Buffy took the bags from him and looked inside. "Not bad Giles. T-shirts, jeans, a couple of sweaters. Even ..." She didn't finish. Giles had bought Erin several pairs of little girl's panties. Buffy smiled at Giles, who flushed. Buffy looked in another bag. "What's this?" She pulled out a small stuffed pig.

 "It looks like Mr. Gordo Jr." Willow said with a grin.

 Buffy looked at Giles and he looked uncomfortable. Buffy gave him a very sweet smile and took Erin off to the bathroom.

 "There are some things in there for you as well, Buffy." Giles told her, still uncomfortable.

 "Thanks, Giles." Buffy said as she and Erin went down the hall.

 Once he heard the bathroom door click, Giles' eyes turned somber. "That's not a happy expression." Willow observed. "What's going on, Giles?"

 Giles went to his desk drawer and pulled out the letter from last night. Silently, he handed it to Willow.

 Willow's eyes grew wider and more horrified as she read the letter. Tara, reading over her shoulder, looked shocked. Willow finished and handed the letter to Xander and Anya. "It's a mistake. It has to be a mistake." Willow said.

 "Buffy certainly doesn't believe so." Giles commented.

 "She's just a kid." Xander said. He handed the letter back to Giles, who put it away.

 "She's so small." Anya commented.

 "Wh-why?" Tara asked.

 Giles looked down at his desk. "They don't want another Buffy." He looked at them. "They're trying to make certain that their authority isn't questioned again."

 "Authority?" Willow echoed. "This is because Buffy won't follow their orders?"

 "Why do you think the Crucamentium was started?" Anya asked. Except for Giles, they all looked at her blankly. "Don't tell me that you bought that nonsense about it teaching a Slayer to think as well as fight. A Slayer that can't think quick won't make it to eighteen. The Crucamentium is the Council's way of showing the Slayer who's in control. This is what could happen if you don't do what we say."

 "We've done it once, we can do it again." Xander concluded.

 "Except that Giles couldn't do that to Buffy." Willow said. "Not all of it."

 "She's lucky." Anya said flatly. "So's he. There was a Slayer once that killed her Watcher for doing that to her. Just blind rage. And then there was this Watcher who ..."

 "An." Xander said. When she looked at him, he shook his head. "We get it." He looked at Giles, who was pale.

 They all turned at the sound of Buffy's laughter from the bathroom, followed by Erin's giggle.

 "D-did anyone else n-notice how much she looks like Buffy?" Tara asked.

 "Have you ever seen pictures of Buffy at that age?" Giles asked. "I can't help thinking that there is more to it than what is in that letter. Buffy said that ..."

 "What do you think?" Buffy asked as she and Erin came in to the room. They were dressed alike in pink T-shirts and jeans. Buffy held one of Erin's hands, in the other, Mr. Gordo Jr. was held tightly to her chest.

 "You look like Mother and daughter." Xander said oddly.

 Buffy made a face at him. "Only if I gave birth at eleven."

 Oddly, Giles had the same impression. It triggered something in his memory, but he couldn't quite grasp it. He walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out the Codex. He hadn't been able to bring himself to look through it since Buffy had died at the Master's hands, but he opened it and read.

 Buffy, who knew exactly what book that he'd picked up, even though the others didn't, paled. "Giles?" The others heard the quaver in her voice and looked at her worriedly.

 Giles turned the pages, as if he knew exactly where to look. When he reached the desired page, he read. "'The Slayer shall teach the child as if she were her own. To the world of darkness they will appear as Mother and daughter. A bond of blood shall bind them in a fight unlike the Chosen and her family had ever known.'" Giles looked at Buffy. "The Codex ..."

 "Don't read to me from the Codex." Buffy said stiffly, angrily. Erin inched closer to Buffy.

 "We must prepare for ..." Giles began.

 "Prepare for me to die again?" Buffy asked. "It's a book. It doesn't have all of the answers."

 Giles set the open book down and went to Buffy. "Buffy, it's better if we know what we're up against."

 "We're up against the Council." Buffy stated. "What more do we need to know?"

 Neither noticed as Willow edged to the book. Or when she picked it up and began to read.

 "And if it isn't just the Council?" Giles asked. "What then? If you truly wish to protect Erin, then you must know what you will be forced to protect her against."

 "*If* I truly wish?" Buffy said. "What's that supposed to mean?" She asked angrily.

 "It means that while you wish to protect Erin, I wish to protect you both." Giles told her. "You're right, it doesn't have all the answers, but perhaps it can help us to ask the correct questions."

 "Uh, Giles?" Willow said in a small voice. "Did you read all of this?"

 "What are you doing, Willow?" Buffy asked.

 "Why? What does it say?" Giles asked.

 Willow looked to the book again. "'Woman, man, child. The Chosen, her Mate and the one yet to be called. Together they will create a Triumvirate that will defeat the darkness within the light.'" Willow looked at Giles. 

 "The Council." Buffy said triumphantly. "The darkness within the light."

 "Mate?" Xander echoed. "Does that mean Riley?"

 "I don't think so." Willow told him. "'The wisdom of age, the strength of veracity and the innocence of youth.'" She walked over and handed the book to Giles.

 Giles looked over the words and then met Willow's eyes. "Your Latin has improved." He said neutrally.

 "It's the spells." Willow answered in kind.

 "Please tell me that the age thing doesn't mean Angel." Xander pleaded.

 "I don't think so." Willow said still looking at Giles. She looked at Buffy, but she and Erin were looking at their hands, Buffy's left and Erin's right.

 "Blood bond?" Buffy repeated.

 "Your hands were bleeding when they touched." Giles said. "Buffy, it's already begun."

 Buffy gave a short laugh, not a humorous sound. "If the Council hadn't tried to kill her, it wouldn't have started. They set it motion."

 "A self fulfilling prophecy." Giles commented.

 "Yeah." Buffy said lost in a memory.

 "Maybe we should call Wesley." Willow said. "I mean, if it is the Council, maybe he can help."

 The phone rang and they all jumped. Giles went over and answered the phone. "Hello." He looked at Buffy. "Hello, Angel." Giles listened. "Cordelia had a vision." He listened. "About Buffy, a girl and myself." Listened. "We think it could have something to do with a prophecy concerning the Council, so if you could spare Wesley ...?" Listened. "He'll be here this afternoon." Listened. "Yes, we'll let you know if we need back up." He hung up. He looked back to Buffy. "It seems that we've given Cordelia a blinding headache."

 "Seems fair." Xander said. "How many has she given us over the years?" <Her Mate.> <Wisdom of age.> <About Buffy, a girl and myself.> The words echoed through Buffy's mind like thunder. She looked at Giles with wide eyes.

   Giles sat at his desk with several books open in front of him. The rest were in the living area, on the couch, the chair, the floor, researching.

 Giles felt a light touch on his arm, he looked up from the books and saw Erin. "Yes, Luv. Did you need something?"

 Erin shook her head seriously. "Why is Buffy so upset?" She asked.

 Giles pulled Erin onto his lap with a sigh. "It has to do with bad memories. That book, it's associated with a very bad time for Buffy."

 "Because she died." Erin said.

 "Well, yes." Giles said. "But that isn't all. A lot of things came together and hurt a lot of people. It was a very difficult time for all of us. Buffy ... Felt responsible." He held Erin to him. "She has such a big heart that it's easily hurt."

 "Like you." Erin said.

 Giles looked at her startled. "What?"

 "You care about her so much, that you hurt when she hurts." Erin said.

 "W-well, I suppose that's true." Giles said. He looked into wide eyes so much like Buffy's. "I want to protect her, but I can't."

 "She won't let you." Erin said. "She wants to protect you, but she doesn't know how. Except to keep you out of the way."

 Giles looked at Erin and had to wonder if it were that simple. "Well, you needn't worry." He assured her. "We both intend to protect you." Erin blinked up at him, then nodded. Giles expected her to hop right down, but instead she snuggled against him and laid her head against his chest. Giles laid his cheek against the top of her head for just a moment. When he raised his head, his eyes met Buffy's across the room. Buffy smiled at him and went back to her book.

 It wasn't much later that he realized that Erin had fallen asleep. With a soft smile, he rose to his feet with her gently in his arms and made his way to the loft. Once there, he was about to lay her on the bed, when Buffy came from behind him and pulled back the covers. Giles laid her down and Buffy covered her up.

 Buffy met his eyes across the bed. "What happens now?" Buffy asked.

 "That's what we're researching, isn't it?" Giles asked in return. "Buffy, there's no simple answer to this."

 "Is there ever?" Buffy asked. She moved around the bed and stood in front of him. "But that isn't what I meant. I meant about Erin. She has parents, somewhere, but if they could protect her, she wouldn't be here." She looked at Erin. "I don't want her in the middle of all this."

 "I think it's too late for that." Giles told her. "She's the catalyst. If the Council can get rid of her, they will. She's safest here, where we can protect her."

 "But she's just a baby." Buffy said.

 "No more than you were ever just a girl." Giles said reasonably.

   Xander and Willow watched them from the living area. Xander turned to Willow. "You think Giles is Buffy's Mate?" He asked quietly.

 Willow nodded. "'Wisdom of age.' Who's wiser than Giles?"

 "Yeah, but ..." Xander started, but looked up at Buffy and Giles again. Giles rested his hand on Buffy's shoulder. Buffy looked up at Giles as if he were her lifeline. "Okay then, I see your point. When did that happen?"

 "It started after demon Giles." Willow told him.

 "It started when he put the sword through the Mayor." Anya contradicted. "I've never seen such a case of denial." Willow and Xander looked at her. "What?"

 "It would explain why she was so upset over finding Olivia in his shirt." Willow said.

 "It would explain even more the serious tension around here." Xander added.

 "I-it also explains wh-why she snuck into the Expresso Pump t-to hear him sing." Tara said.

 Willow looked at Tara. "When?"

 Tara smiled. "The night w-we did."

 "Oh." Willow responded. "I didn't see her."

   Buffy put her hand over Giles' on her shoulder, before she moved away and they went downstairs. "Having any luck?" Giles asked as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

 "Haven't found anything in the Black Chronicles." Willow told him.

 "Prophecies aren't mentioned in the Watcher diaries, except in the past tense." Giles commented. "And at that, only the ones that concerned their own Slayers." He looked at Willow. "Perhaps it's time for you to search the net."

 Willow had just taken Giles' place at the desk and had begun to type away, when there was a knock at the door.

 Giles, who had been making tea, went to answer the door. "Wesley already?" He opened the door and it was Wesley.

 Wesley walked in talking, he carried several large books. "Hello everybody, it's good to see you again." Buffy and Giles shushed him. "Why are we being quiet?"

 "Erin's sleeping." Buffy told him as she joined Giles and Wesley by the door.

 "Oh, I see." Wesley said. "Who's Erin?"

 "Erin is the little girl from Cordelia's vision." Giles told him. "I must say, you got here quite fast."

 "The motorcycle." Wesley said. "It's ..."

 "Motorcycle?" Giles asked with real interest. "What kind of ..."

 "Hello." Buffy said. "Prophecy, the Council, little girls being hunted. Remember why we're here, boys." Buffy commented, but with a small smile.

"What is it with British ex-Watchers and motorcycles?" She looked at Giles. "Why don't you bring Wesley up to date and I'll finish the tea." She headed for the kitchen before Giles could answer.

   By the time Buffy brought the tea tray in and set it on the coffee table, Giles had filled Wesley in. Wesley sat in the chair, Giles on the couch. Tara had gone over to help Willow and Xander and Anya had moved to the steps with their books. Buffy settled next to Giles on the couch.

 Wesley wondered at the way Buffy had very much assumed the role of lady of the house and wondered, also, if they were aware of it. "I take it that Buffy informed you of the Council's attempt to take Faith last month."

 "After she tried to kill Angel." Giles said. "Yes, she mentioned it. That they were the same men that had tried to grab her before, when she first woke up. And that Faith had tortured you." The others looked up, they hadn't heard about that.

 "She tortured you?" Willow asked. "And you still helped redeem her."

 "I didn't exactly help." Wesley said. "I simply stayed away. I argued against it, but in the end, I had to believe that Angel knew what he was doing. It seems that he was right."

 "We'll see." Buffy muttered darkly.

 Wesley looked at Giles. "I was informed by Cordelia that while it was indeed bad, I wasn't in near as bad of shape as you after ... Angelus." Wesley finished, aware that he probably shouldn't have mentioned that. He saw Buffy and Giles both pale visibly. "Well, it seems that Doyle gave Cordelia his gift of visions and she's given me her gift of tactlessness." He said in self depreciation. "Not that I've noticed that hers has diminished in any way." He looked at Buffy. "I may as well get it all out of the way at once, then. Angel wanted to know how things were between you and Riley, but he didn't want you to know that it was he who had asked."

 Buffy looked at him with surprised eyes, then gave a small laugh. "You *have* been around Cordie too much." She took a deep breath. "Angel should be happy. Riley went back to Iowa to think. He didn't know if he'd be back."

 "I'm sorry, Buffy." Wesley said sincerely. "And I don't think that will make Angel particularly happy. Even if it did," Wesley said with a small smile.

"He'd rather you were happy than him."

 Buffy met Wesley's eyes. "I know." She leaned back into the couch, so that her and Giles' shoulders just touched.

 Wesley watched that with interest. "Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way, perhaps I could see the prophecy." Giles handed him the Codex, opened to the correct page. "The Codex." Wesley breathed. "I thought it was lost when the school ..." He looked at Giles.

 "Not lost." Giles said blandly. "Just ... Misplaced." He smirked, just a little, unaware that he did so, as he remembered those same words from Angel so long ago.

 Wesley read. {The Slayer shall teach the child as if she were her own. To the world of darkness they will appear as Mother and daughter. A bond of blood shall bind them in a fight unlike the Chosen and her family had ever known.}  He read that over several times before he went on. {Woman, man, child. The Chosen, her Mate and the one yet to be called. Together they will create a Triumvirate that will defeat the darkness within the light.} His eyes lifted to the loft, where he could barely make out a shape on the bed. He went back to the book. {The wisdom of age, the strength of veracity and the innocence of youth.} "Hmmn." He read it over again, then looked at Buffy and Giles. They had leaned closer together and talked quietly. Giles' hand was over Buffy's on her knee. Wesley looked back to the Codex and read with raised brows.

 They researched quietly, except for the tapping of computer keys. Buffy's legs were curled up under her and Giles' arm stretched out behind her on the back of the couch, not touching her, just there. Wesley snuck glances at them.

 A scream tore through the apartment from upstairs. Buffy moved in a flash, Xander and Anya barely slowing her as she raced upstairs. Xander and Anya managed to get out of the way for Giles. The rest just looked towards the bed.

 Giles came to halt at the foot of the bed. Buffy sat on the bed and rocked Erin in her arms.

 "Mommy." Erin sobbed as Buffy tried to calm her. "Mommy." Her arms were tight around Buffy. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

 "What are you sorry for?" Buffy asked gently.

 "I called Mommy this morning." Erin told her. "Now they know."

 "Who are they?" Giles asked, his voice was also gentle.

 "What do they know?" Buffy asked.

 Erin, her face red and tear streaked, looked up to Buffy. "The Council. They know we're together."

 "It's all right." Buffy told her. "It was just a nightmare."

 But Erin shook her head. "They hurt Mommy."

 Buffy looked up at Giles with hard eyes. Giles returned her look with sad eyes. Giles took Erin into his own arms as they went downstairs.

 Wesley's eyes were wide when they reached the bottom of the stairs. "My word." He said when Erin and Buffy were next to each other.

 Buffy grinned. "Mouth looks better closed, Wes."

 Wesley returned her smile. "It's just, the resemblance, it's uncanny."

 Buffy shrugged as Giles took Erin over to Willow. He set her down. "Erin, I want you to tell Willow everything you can about your parents." He looked at Willow. "See what you can find out? You know what to check."

 Willow nodded, then looked at Erin. "What are their names?"

 Erin looked at Willow. "Mary and Jim Temple."

 "Where do you live?" Willow asked next.

 "Chicago." Erin told her.

 Willow began to type away. Giles gestured with his eyes for Buffy to follow him down the hall. Buffy nodded. They slipped from the room.

   Giles closed the bathroom door behind them. "I am *so* going to make them hurt." Buffy said angrily.

 "I'm inclined to agree." Giles told her. "But we must keep calm heads. Anger leads to mistakes, Buffy. You know that." Buffy nodded. "Research doesn't seem to be getting us very far. What about Willy?"

 "He might know something." Buffy agreed. "I'll go beat it out of him."

 "I don't want you going alone." Giles told her. "Take Xander with you." Buffy turned, but he grabbed her arm. "Don't take any chances. Buffy, I ..." He hesitated. "I feel like I should apologize for having ever been one of them."

 Buffy smiled up at him. "You were never one of them, Giles."

 Giles smiled down at her. "Thank you, for that." They stared into each other's eyes for long moments. Giles leaned down, before he abruptly released her. "Umm ..."

 "I should go." Buffy said as she looked away. This time when she turned for the door, he didn't stop her.

   Buffy and Xander walked into the darkened interior of Willy's. "Oh, look. It's the Slayer. How are you, Slayer?"

 Buffy pointed to the small group of vampires, about to try to sneak out, in the corner, without looking at them. "Sit down. I'm not here for you." The vampires sat back down.

 Xander looked at her. "Man, you're good." He muttered.

 Buffy leaned over the bar and grabbed Willy by the collar. "I'm looking for people. Real people. Watcher types. They might be looking for a little girl."

 For once, Willy didn't prevaricate, but he kept his voice down. "The future Slayer. Yeah, they were here. Talkin' loud in front of the vamps. I didn't like them. They talked a little too much, though. Most of the vamps ignored them."

 "Why?" Xander asked.

 "They talked about how the Slayer was protecting her." Willy said. He looked at Buffy. "Why would a bunch of watcher types want to get rid of a future Slayer?"

 "She reminds them of me." Buffy said flatly.

 "Ah." Willy said even though he clearly didn't understand.

 "You know where they might be?" Buffy asked.

 "Word is that they're still in town, but ..." Willy said. He looked around. "Kevler lost them." He whispered.

 "Who's Kevler?" Buffy whispered in return.

 Willy looked around again. "He's a Bracken demon. Not real bright, but not a bad guy. I don't know why he followed them in the first place."

 "Get word to me if they come back." Buffy told him. Willy nodded. "Nasty weather's coming." Buffy said loudly on her way out. "I suggest you stay out of it." She was out the door, followed by Xander.

 Spike watched them from the shadows. "Future Slayer?"

* * *

   Buffy kept looking behind her as she and Xander walked back to Giles' place. "You're going to give me a case of the wiggens if you keep that up." Xander commented.

 Buffy looked at him distractedly. "What?"

 "Are we being followed?" Xander asked.

 Buffy looked back again. "I don't know. I feel ... Something."

 "It's daytime." Xander pointed out. "It can't be vamps."

 Buffy looked at him with raised brows. "Probably not. But sunlight doesn't effect most other demons. Except that they don't like it."

 "It shows their age." Xander said. Buffy rolled her eyes. "You think it's the Watcher guys?"

 "Maybe." Buffy said vaguely.

 They reached the apartment complex. Buffy stopped at one of the windows outside Giles'.  Giles sat on the couch with Erin in his lap, a book in his hands in front of them. Erin pointed to something in the book and Giles spoke, probably explaining what the book said. Erin smiled up at him and Giles smiled back.

 "Is it me, or does that look natural?" Xander asked. He turned to Buffy, but she just watched the scene inside as if enthralled.

 "If it weren't for me, he and Jenny might have had kids by now." Buffy said softly.

 "Maybe." Xander said neutrally. "Buff?"

 "He should have kids." Buffy went on. "Don't you think?"

 "I think he still has time, if that's what he wants." Xander said carefully.

 "Yeah," Buffy said, barely audible. "He has time."

 "So will you, Buff." Xander told her. "You'll see."

   Buffy and Xander entered the apartment, a bit subdued. Erin jumped off of Giles' lap and ran to throw herself into Buffy's arms. "Whoa." Buffy said upon impact. "Why am I being attacked?"

 "She had an odd feeling while you were gone." Giles told her as he joined them. "Everything go all right?"

 Buffy put Erin down, but left an arm around her shoulders. "Didn't even have to hit Willy. I guess the usual rules don't apply for Watcher types. They've been spreading the word."

 "Not a lot of interest, though." Xander added. "Very few vamps seem to think that even a future Slayer is worth having to face the current one."

 "They don't think I'm important enough?" Erin asked with a touch of indignity. Buffy and Giles looked at each, then down at Erin.

 "Okay, officially wigged." Xander said. "She's channeling Buffy, now." Buffy smacked his arm without looking. "Ow."

 "It's a good thing, Erin." Buffy told her. "We'll have enough to deal with whatever the Council throws at us."

 "Perhaps we should call Angel for assistance." Wesley said.

 "Buffy thought we were being watched on the way back." Xander said as they ignored Wesley.

 "Council?" Giles asked.

 "I think so." Buffy told him. "How went the search?"

 "Erin's parents are hurt, but not in any danger." Giles told her. "Willow found them at a hospital in Chicago."

 "Giles let me talk to them." Erin told Buffy.

 Buffy looked at Giles and he shrugged. "I figured that it really didn't make a difference at this point. I think that they knew where she was before they even went to the parents."

 Buffy looked at Erin. "I bet they felt a lot better after they heard from you."

 "Mommy started crying." Erin told her. "Daddy said it was 'tears of relief.' Giles told them that it was all right, that I could stay here until they got better. Then he went into the other room and I couldn't hear what he said. Whatever it was, Mommy and Daddy said that they'd be down to get me as soon as they could." She tilted her head to the side. "Do you think it'll be over by then?"

 Buffy bent down to Erin's level. She brushed back some of Erin's hair with her fingers, then cupped her cheek. "I don't think it will be much longer at all. And when it's all over, I'm thinkin' ..." Buffy grinned. "Ice cream party. What do you think?"

 Erin grinned. "Chocolate ice cream?" She threw her arms around Buffy's neck and hugged her.

 Buffy hugged her back, but her face lifted until she met Giles' eyes. Giles rested a hand on each of their heads, just for a second, before he turned and went down the hall.

   Giles went out the back door to the courtyard. Buffy followed a minute later. Giles didn't turn around when he heard her. "What is it?" Buffy asked.

 "I was just thinking how right that looked." Giles said. "You'd make a very good mother."

 "Nah." Buffy said. "Not me. The bedtime stories alone would warp any child." She tried to sound casual, but didn't pull it off.

 Giles turned, then. "I saw how much you wanted it. I could see it in your eyes. You deserve it, but ..."

 "It's not likely to happen." Buffy finished for him. "I know." She moved closer to him. "I saw you through the window. With Erin. Suddenly, I could see you with a whole passle of kids."

 "I have a passle of kids." Giles told her. "Four of them are inside. One's in LA helping a vampire until she can be rich and famous. The last is searching for an escape from the inner beast." He gave her a half smile.

 "And me?" Buffy asked.

 "You're the only one that never needed me to fill that place in your life." Giles said. "Your Mother, as oblivious as she was about the Slaying, has always been there in all other respects." He smiled. "You're never what I expect. I came here expecting a child who needed to be molded. I found an angry young woman, who wanted nothing to do with her destiny, but was unable to walk away."

 "You wouldn't let me." Buffy said softly.

 "No," Giles contradicted. "You wouldn't let yourself. I had little, if anything, to do with it."

 "That's not true." Buffy told him. "From the very first, you cared. It made a difference. Merrick cared, but I don't think he wanted to."

 Giles touched her cheek. "How could I not? And yet, you've retained so much of that same young woman. Bright, full of life and laughter. You've ruled your destiny, instead of letting it rule you."

 Buffy shook her head. "I've made so many mistakes, Giles."

 "We all have, Buffy." Giles told her. "We make choices. Sometimes they're right and sometimes they're very wrong. You made better choices at sixteen than I did at twenty-two." Without realizing it, his thumb began to caress her cheekbone. "You faced death."

 "I tried to run away from it." Buffy whispered.

 Giles' hand moved to her throat. "You don't think that you're going to make it through this, do you?" He asked as his fingers lightly traced her throbbing pulse.

 "I don't know." Buffy told him honestly. "I never know."

 "*I* know." Giles told her as he brushed his knuckles across her cheek, only to twine his fingers in her hair. "We'll make it through together." He brushed his lips, lightly, against hers. "I refuse to let you go." He pressed his lips more firmly against hers. He felt Buffy lean against him and her hands came to rest at his waist. His right hand tangled in her hair and his left encircled her small waist and held her to him. He let his tongue taste her lips and she opened her mouth for him.

 At the door that led to the courtyard, Willow and Xander stood there with their mouths agape. Erin grinned before Willow put a hand over her eyes and closed the door.

 Giles pulled away slowly and looked down at Buffy's face. Her eyes were still closed, her face was flushed and her breathing was heavy. He held her to him so that her head rested against his chest. Her arms went all the way around him with her palms flat against his back.

 Buffy heard his heart thudding against her ear and knew that her own was beating just as frantically. She rubbed her cheek against his chest. She felt him as he laid his cheek against the top of her head.

  Inside, they returned to research. Back on the couch, they sat as they had before. Buffy had her legs curled beneath her and Giles' arm was stretched across the back of the couch. The only difference was that his fingers rested lightly on her shoulder. Erin rested on the couch with her head in Buffy's lap, Buffy rhythmically brushed her fingers through the little girl's hair.

 Wesley watched them covertly. If someone looked in the window, the three of them would have looked like a family. Buffy's own age was hardly an impediment to that assessment, as she could easily pass for twenty-five. Erin, although eight, looked a bit younger. <'The Slayer shall teach the child ...'> It ran through his mind, suddenly. "Buffy." He gained her attention, along with Giles'. "Have you worked with Erin any?"

 "Worked?" Buffy echoed blankly.

 "Trained?" Wesley clarified. "Basic self defense?"

 "Of course not." Buffy said. "She's a kid."

 "A 'kid' who's strength and speed should already be enhanced." Wesley said. "It would behoove her to know how to protect herself during this. I'm not speaking of extensive Slayer training, but self defense."

 Buffy looked at Giles. "He may have a point." Giles told her. "We could show her weak points, how to break a hold, that sort of thing."

 Xander and Giles moved Giles' antique desk out of harm's way and to give Buffy and Erin some room to move.

 Giles watched as Buffy worked with Erin. Erin picked up what Buffy taught her quickly. For her part, Buffy praised Erin often and was patient when Erin needed more time. <'The Slayer shall teach the child as if she were her own.'> Giles smiled when Buffy gave Erin a quick hug. His smile turned a bit grim as he put on his protective padding. It had been a while since Buffy had beat the hell out of him.

 Together, Buffy and Giles would show Erin, then Erin would try the same move against Giles' protective padding.

 Wesley and Xander cringed in sympathy as Buffy showed Erin the most effective way to stun a man. "A bit enthusiastic with that, isn't she?" Wesley commented.

 "She's been hurt." Anya said.

 "Why does that hurt a guy so much?" Erin asked.

 Eyes dropped to books, or the computer, all around the room. Buffy and Giles exchanged a look. Buffy summed it up. "It's his weak spot. You can hurt a girl there, too, but the pain is way more intense for a guy."

 "Oh." Erin said. She shrugged. "Okay."

 Buffy looked uncertain, just for a moment, before she showed her how to block a hit to the face.

 It grew dark while they worked and the others said their good-byes and made their ways home. Wesley headed for a hotel.

 Buffy and Giles continued to train, even after Erin went and changed for bed and curled up on the couch.

 Giles had long since removed the protective padding as Buffy showed him some of what she had picked up from the Initiative.

 Buffy took a long drink of water and set the bottle back on the counter, when Giles came up behind her and pinned her arms to her side. His arms were locked together beneath her breasts.

 "Aren't you going to break my hold?" Giles asked, when she made no move to do so.

 "Maybe I don't want to." Buffy told him, then managed to turn in his arms and face him.

 Giles looked down at her as his arms lessened their pressure around her. Buffy brought her hands up between them, to rest them on his chest. "Buffy, I ..." His hands rested loosely around her waist. His eyes searched her expression.

 "What, Giles?" Buffy asked softly.

 Suddenly, Giles lifted Buffy onto the counter and moved between her knees to kiss her. There was no hesitancy in his kiss, just need. Buffy kissed him back just as greedily. He pressed against her and her legs wrapped around him. After long minutes, Giles broke the kiss. "We have to stop." He said as he moved his lips to her throat.

 "We probably should." Buffy agreed as her hands worked at the buttons of his shirt. "Why is that, again?"

 "It's too soon." Giles said as his hands slid under her T-shirt, as his mouth covered hers again. "God, Buffy." He groaned as she finished unbuttoning his shirt and ran her fingers through his chest hair. Her mouth was on his throat as she nibbled her way down to his collar bone. When he tilted his head to the side, to give her better access, he saw a small hand thrown over the arm of the couch. "Erin." He felt Buffy freeze. Buffy dropped her forehead against his chest. He grew concerned when she began to shake, until he realized that she was laughing. He smiled and held her to him. "I don't even have a bedroom door to close."

 "You don't even have a real bedroom." Buffy said with a giggle. She looked up at him. "If she weren't ..."

 "We probably wouldn't have made it to the bedroom." Giles told her. He kissed her forehead.  "There's plenty of time."

 One of Buffy's hands move to rest over his heart. "Promise?" 

 Giles responded by kissing her gently on the lips.

   Hours later, Buffy was on the couch with Erin, uncertain as to why she was suddenly awake. Every nerve ending in her body was hyper alert. Someone was outside, she felt it. In the darkened interior of the apartment, Buffy woke Erin up, shushed her when she would have protested and they quickly dressed.

 Giles opened his eyes to find Buffy hovering over him. "Buffy, I thought we decided ..."

 Buffy put a hand over his mouth to shut him up. "Someone's outside. Get dressed."

 Giles threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater over the T-shirt and boxers that he'd slept in. "What are we going to do?"

 "First step is to get out of here. We'll figure out where to go once we're away." Buffy told him. She picked Erin up and handed her to Giles. "Stay behind me."

 Giles, with Erin in his arms, followed Buffy down the stairs and to the back door. Buffy went to open the door, but pulled back. She looked at Giles and he moved to the door. Buffy took up her stance and nodded to Giles, he opened the door and Buffy kicked out. She knocked out the Watcher who had been on the other side of the door. Buffy stepped over the inert form, followed by Giles and Erin.

   They made it to the Park in record time and took a chance to catch their breath. "Well, well, well, if this isn't a nice family outing." Spike said from behind them. "Father, daughter and ..." Buffy turned and glared at him.

"Slayer." He finished flatly. "What are you doing out here." He tried to get a look at the little girl. "This her?"

 "Spike, help or go away." Buffy told him.

 "Help?" Spike echoed. "What? The Council boys ..."

 Buffy rolled her eyes, grabbed Giles' hand and they ran again. When they stopped again, Spike was still with them.

 "Come on then." Spike said in resignation. He led them to a sewer access and down they went.

 "Why'd you bring us down here?" Giles asked.

 "'Cause if we run into something down here, at least I can fight back." Spike told him. "All this fuss over a little blighter, barely bigger than one of Dru's dolls." He looked at Buffy. "What she do to the Council anyway?"

 "She wasn't born according to their terms." Buffy said acidly.

 They eventually came into a well furnished cavern. Buffy looked at Spike in question. "It was mine. Well, mine and Harm's. She stayed here after I left. Until the Initiative made such a big noise and she moved on. It's mine again, now." Giles set Erin down and Spike got his first real look at her. His eyes widened. "Bloody hell."

 "Watch your language, Spike." Buffy warned.

 Spike looked back and forth between Buffy and Erin. "But she ... How the ... That's just bloody strange." He concluded.

 Buffy tapped the back of his head none too gently. "I need you to get to the others. Willow's at Tara's, I think. Anya's with Xander. Wesley's ..." She looked at Giles. "Which hotel was he at?"

 "The Sunnydale View." Giles told her. He looked at Spike. "Then, see if they've left the flat. If they have, bring as many of the books as you can. Wesley will know which ones."

 "Do I look like an errand boy?" Spike asked.

 Buffy grabbed him by the collar and pulled his face down to hers. "Do I look like I'm in the mood for this?"

 "Hey!" Spike exclaimed. "All right, already. No need to get violent." Buffy released him and he smoothed his shirt. "You're in a right mood aren't ya?" He stalked out muttering about ungrateful Slayers.

 Erin watched him go, then leaned her head against Giles' hip. "He's a vampire."

 Giles put a protective arm around her. "It's all right, Luv. Spike can't hurt you." Buffy moved over to him and leaned against his other side, his other arm went around her and he held them both to him. "I'm not going to let anyone hurt you." Giles told them.

   Spike and Wesley slipped into Giles' apartment. There were several books missing. Wesley grabbed a couple of others that might prove relevant and they slipped back out again.

   When Spike returned to the cavern with the others, Erin was asleep in the bed. Buffy and Giles sat on the bed, he had his arm around her and she had her head on his shoulder. Buffy jumped up when everybody came in. "Is everybody all right?" Buffy asked anxiously as Giles stood as well.

 "We're fine, Buff." Willow assured her. "What happened? Wesley said that Giles' place was completely trashed."

 "The books ...?" Giles began.

 "They took the books that were out." Wesley told him. "I did bring a couple that ..."

 "They got the Codex?" Buffy asked.

 "No, I had the Codex." Wesley said. "Giles said that I could study it, so I took it with me."

 "I don't remember ..." Giles began.

 "You were, uh, training with Buffy." Wesley said.

 "I still don't ..." Giles continued, blankly.

 "We heard him, Giles." Willow told him. "I was kinda surprised that you let him, but you told him to go ahead."

 "About the time Buffy knocked you down and fell on top of you." Xander said drily.

 "Oh. Yes, well ..." Giles looked at Buffy, who shrugged. He felt a little better knowing that she didn't remember it either. "Good. We still have the Codex." He looked at Wesley. "Did you find anything more?" He asked to divert the subject.

 "I'm afraid not." Wesley told him. "But it made for fascinating reading." He paused. "It looked like there had been quite a fight inside. You weren't hurt?"

 "No," Giles said. "In fact, Buffy had us out before they ever got inside." He looked at Buffy. "How did you know they were there?"

 "I just knew." Buffy told him. "I felt it."

 "Like you knew that there was someone on the other side of the door, before you opened it?" Giles asked.

 "Yeah." Buffy answered. "I just ... Knew."

 "How?" Wesley asked.

 "I could feel it, sense it, whatever." Buffy said with a shrug.

 "The same way you felt us being followed back from Willy's?" Xander asked. Buffy nodded.

 "Extraordinary." Wesley said.

 Spike had taken advantage of the others' distraction to go have another look at the future Slayer.

 Erin's eyes snapped open and found the vampire looming over her. "I'm not afraid of you." She told him with a defiant glare.

 Spike returned her glare. "Good for you, Pet."

 "Giles told me that you can't hurt me." Erin told him.

 "Bloody wanker." Spike muttered. "I'd hurt you if I could."

 "Why?" Erin asked curiously.

 "'Cause I'm a vampire, that's why." Spike told her.

 "So," Erin said. "I didn't make you that way. I haven't done anything to you."

 Spike stared down at her dumbfounded. "It doesn't matter, that's just the way it works." He told her.

 "Why?" Erin asked again.

 Spike looked down into her green eyes and didn't have an answer. "You'd dust me in a minute if you could."

 "Not if you didn't try to hurt me or anyone else." Erin told him. "There'd be no reason to. Buffy hasn't."

 Spike glanced at the Slayer as they tried to figure out where her newfound abilities had come from. "No, she hasn't." He said thoughtfully. Not for the first time, he wondered why she hadn't. He looked back down at the girl that stared up at him. "Shouldn't you be sleeping? Or something?"

 "I was." Erin said. Spike made a face at her and she giggled. "I have to go to the bathroom."

 "Slayer." Spike called.

   Spike prowled around as they slept. He looked down at Willow and Tara, huddled together under some blankets. What a waste, these two lovely girls. He tilted his head to the side. Then again, there were possibilities. He let his mind wander.

 Xander and Anya were also snuggled together. Wesley was alone, except for the book he'd fallen asleep reading. Spike eased the book from his hands and set it on the table.

 Spike looked at the bed and the trio that truly fascinated him. The Slayer was on her side, her arms protectively around the little one. Behind her, the Watcher had done the same, his arms around the Slayer. His arm rested along the Slayer's, so that his hand covered hers and their fingers were entwined. When had that happened? The Watcher's other arm pillowed the Slayer's head, bent at the elbow so that his hand rested between her breasts and over her heart.

 Bored, Spike went over and picked up the book that the other Watcher had fallen asleep over.

   It was hours later, when Buffy awoke slowly. Giles' hand had slid to her left breast and kneaded softly, his thumb brushed her nipple. Buffy sighed and wiggled her bottom, only to feel him press against her backside. Buffy's eyes snapped open at the size of him, he was ...

 "Should you be doing that in front of the children?" Spike asked, amused. That was when Giles' eyes snapped open and he became aware of his surroundings. He felt Buffy's bottom against his erection, her soft breast in his hand and nearly groaned. His hand squeezed her breast involuntarily as he moved to sit up. At least, he told himself that it was involuntarily. He felt the painful confinement of his jeans with a frustrated sigh. When would they ever have a chance to be alone?

 Buffy scooted Erin off of her arm as she sat up. "What time is it?" She asked as she leaned her head against Giles' shoulder.

 Giles glanced at his watch. "After ten." He said surprised.

 "So, when did you two start playing slap and tickle?" Spike asked. They both glared at him, but he just grinned, unrepentant.

 Buffy climbed over Giles and stood to stretch, an activity that Giles enjoyed immensely. Spike didn't bother to hide his own appreciation. Buffy threw a pillow at him as the others began to wake up.

   "We need a plan." Buffy said once they were all awake. She glanced at Spike as she chewed thoughtfully on a bite of donut. "We can't keep running away. We're going to have to face them."

 "And do what?" Wesley asked. "You can't kill them, but nothing short of that will stop them."

 "No, I don't think so." Buffy said. "I've been thinking about this. 'The darkness within the light.' What if the whole Council isn't bad?"

 "Even if this is just a faction, they're awfully powerful." Wesley pointed out.

 "How much power have we given them?" Buffy asked. "By assuming that it was the entire Council. You, Giles, Merrick, none of you were bad."

 "Buffy, it could be dangerous to assume that the rest of the Council isn't involved." Giles said.

 Buffy looked down. "Yeah, I probably don't know what I'm talking about anyway. It was just a thought."

 "I didn't mean it that way, Buffy." Giles told her.

 "No, it's okay." Buffy said. "You're the wisdom, right." She stood quickly and walked off, out of the cavern.

 Giles watched her go. "Damn." He muttered to himself as he stood and followed her. "Buffy, wait." 

 "Ooh, trouble in paradise." Spike commented. Six pairs of eyes swung to glare at him. Erin walked over to him and put her hands on her hips. "What?"

 Erin smacked him upside the head, just like she'd seen Buffy do. "That wasn't nice." She told him.

 "Ow." Spike said and glared down at her. "Slayer's been a bad influence on you." She pouted. He picked her up and set her on his knee. "You'll make a right good Slayer one day, I think." She beamed at him. "Listen, Pet, don't worry about the folks, they'll work it out." Erin patted his cheek and he shook his head at her. The other five simply gaped.

   Giles saw Buffy ahead of him. She stood ramrod stiff, her back to him and her arms wrapped around her middle. He moved up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "It was a good point, Buffy."

 "Yeah, a great point." Buffy said. "So good you couldn't wait to shoot it down."

 "Shoot it ..." Giles turned her around to face him. "I didn't shoot anything down. I merely pointed out a need for caution." He tilted her face up. "Now, what is it?"

 "I don't know what else to do." Buffy told him. "How do we stop them? I won't stand by and let them take her. I can't guarantee that they won't be hurt. Or worse. But if it's them or one of us, I ..."

 "I know." Giles said as he pulled her into his arms. "God, Buffy, I know. It's the same for me."

 "I don't want it to come to that, but I don't know how to stop it." Buffy told him.

 <'The wisdom of age, the strength of veracity and the innocence of youth.'> Veracity. Truth. Honest. Right. <'How much power did we give them?'> Giles' mind was a whirl. <'... A fight unlike the Slayer and her family had ever known.'> <'A Triumvirate that will defeat the darkness within the light.'> <'Mother and Daughter.'> "The Right of Adara." Giles breathed. He grabbed her hand and pulled her back to the cavern.

 "The Right of what?" Buffy asked. "Giles, what are you doing?"

 "Wesley, have you ever heard of the Right of Adara?" Giles asked as they rejoined the others.

 "The Right of Adara?" Wesley echoed. "It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't quite ..."

 "My father was always bringing home Council books." Giles told them. "He sat rather high on the Council before he died. The Book of Light. There was an entire section on the Right of Adara. If I remember correctly, she was one of the first known Slayers. She had a child, a daughter, also destined to be a Slayer. The Council was young, less than a century. They tried to take the child. Adara did a ritual."

 "Giles, I'm not Erin's Mother." Buffy pointed out. "And I can't keep her from her real Mother."

 "I don't plan to." Giles told her. "But we can keep her out of Council hands. You have the Blood Bond, you felt it when your blood mixed. In a sense, you've become her ...  Slayer Mother. For lack of a better description."

 "Do you really think it would work?" Buffy asked.

 "With Willow and Tara to help." Giles said with a look at the pair in question. Tara looked at Willow, only when she saw her nod, did she, herself, nod. "And Anya?" She nodded as well. Giles looked back to Buffy. Buffy looked at Erin. "What about you? How do you feel about it?" Erin looked uncertain. "I want to be able to go home."

 "You will." Giles assured her.

 "What if something happened to me?" Buffy asked.

 "Us." Giles told her gently. "And it would make no difference."

 "I thought they didn't want to just take her away." Xander said.

 "Yes, but by invoking the Right of Adara, the Council's own laws force them to protect her claim." Giles explained.

 "That's where I'd heard it before." Wesley exclaimed. "Studying Council Law." He looked at Giles. "The ritual must be performed in front of Council."

 "And so it shall." Giles said. "But there's nothing in there that says that they have to be happy about witnessing it."

* * *

       They waited until dusk to make their way back to Giles' apartment. Once inside, they moved quickly as they prepared two circles. Inside the smaller circle sat Willow, Tara and Anya, Buffy. Giles and Erin stood in the middle of them, with Erin halfway between Willow and Tara, Buffy was halfway between Willow and Anya and Giles halfway between Tara and Anya. Two triangles, six points.

 The Outer circle remained open, Wesley would close it as soon as the Council representatives arrived, effectively trapping them between the two circles, whose magical barrier would prevent them from leaving or interfering.

 Spike and Xander would remain outside of both circles as protection against anything else that might be drawn by the magic.

 Then they waited. It was barely a half an hour later when the three Council men arrived. They walked right into Giles' apartment and Wesley spoke a few quiet words in Latin and closed the outer circle.

 The two men on the sides grew nervous quickly. The man in front barely blinked. "Magic, Rupert, really." Quentin Travers said calmly.

 "We invoke the Right of Adara." Giles replied just as calmly.  Travers' eyes narrowed. "Impossible. You are not her parents."

 "We call upon the Blood Bond." Giles said. At that, Travers tensed. Tara handed Giles the anointed knife. Giles said a few words of his own over the knife as Buffy held out her hands, palms up. Giles cradled her hands gently as he made two straight slices in each palm. Giles turned to Erin and she held her hands out bravely. Giles made two straight slices in her hands as well, wincing as he did so as a tear slid down Erin's cheek. Giles then calmly did his own hands and handed the knife back to Tara, who gave him a sympathetic smile. Giles, Buffy and Erin each held one hand of the others, palm to palm, Giles began to speak as the blood intermixed, binding them together for all time.

 Willow, Tara and Anya spoke in rhythm with Giles, but the words were different.

 "Stop this, Rupert!" Travers yelled. "Stop this, now!" His words had no effect. He moved to stop them physically, but couldn't enter the inner circle.

 Xander and Spike watched from outside the circles as the incantations were finished. Willow, Tara and Anya sat quietly. Giles, Buffy and Erin released each other's hands and brought their own hands together, palm to palm. After a moment they held their hands out for the Council to see. On each palm two x-s overlapped, and they glowed faintly as Giles said the final words.

 "No!" Travers fairly growled. "I will not allow this."

 "Seems to me that you don't have much of a choice." Wesley said as moved up behind them. Travers turned to him and Wesley's eyes were cold. "Do you? Council Law is indisputable, I've heard you say that yourself."

 "How dare you spout Council Law to me?" Travers fairly spat. "You work with a vampire."

 "A vampire who has done more good in just the few months that I've been there, than the Council has probably done in a century." Wesley retorted. "Open your eyes to the real world, Quentin. The Council was never meant to control the Slayer, but to aid her. You came to the Hellmouth and invoked the Crucamentium, a ritual that hasn't been performed in centuries, and nearly cost the Slayer and her Mother their lives. The end result, two dead Council lackeys. Who knows how many others would have died had Buffy not managed to kill Kraylik, even without her strength? Then, after all that, you have the nerve to spout threats to a man who risked his own life to aid the Slayer by killing a vampire that *you* were responsible for creating."

 "You're out of line." Travers said through gritted teeth.

 "No, *you* are." Giles said as he picked up Erin. "It's not enough that you continually put the current Slayer in danger due to your delusions of grandeur, but you claim the right to simply kill a future Slayer because, in your opinion, she wasn't found early enough to properly train."

 "What?" A man asked as he walked in.

 Travers faced him. "Mr. Stewart." Travers all but stuttered. Buffy was curious as to who this man was that had put the fear of God into Travers. "Who are you?"

 "Buffy, this is William Stewart." Giles said. "He's in charge of Security for the Council." He looked at Buffy and silenced her smart remark with a look, before it could be said. She made a face at him, but kept the remark to herself.

 "What is going on here, Travers?" Stewart asked, with a soft Scottish accented voice.

 "They've kidnapped a future Slayer." Travers said.

 "What?!" Several voices said at once.

 "You are some piece of work." Buffy said to Travers in disgust.

 "Perhaps you would like to tell me then, Miss ...?" Stewart asked politely.

 "Summers." Buffy told him. "Buffy Summers. The Slayer. And that dirt bag wouldn't know the truth if it bit him on the ..."

 "Buffy!" Giles said sternly.

 However, Stewart's lips twitched. "And the truth would be?" He inquired.

 "We've been protecting her." Buffy told him, with little hope that he'd believe her, or anything they said. "From him." Buffy glared at Travers.

 "Why would you need to protect a future Slayer from a respected member of the Council?" Stewart asked.

 "Respected by whom?" Giles asked.

 "How long do you have?" Buffy asked.

 "Rupert, perhaps you could shed some light?" Stewart requested.

 Giles told him everything he could.

 "This is nonsense." Travers commented. "The ramblings of a disgruntled man. A man who was fired from his position, I might add."

 "Yes, I am aware of that." Stewart said. "However, Mr. Travers, I have been watching you for some time." Travers began to look distinctly ill.

 "You've been watching him?" Buffy asked.

 "That's why I am here." Stewart told her. "There have been far too many inconsistencies in his reports. For instance, Miss Summers, were you aware that you were dead?"

 "Again?" Buffy asked.

 "So, I had to wonder, why was a man, who was fired from his position as Watcher, still here? Despite his obvious devotion to his Slayer, once she'd died, why did he remain?" Stewart asked. "I found myself oddly curious."

 "Did you, indeed?" Giles asked. "Exactly, how did Buffy die?"

 "I believe it was creature known only as Adam." Stewart commented. "Is that what it was, Travers?" Travers remained silent. "No matter, it's all in your reports."

 "What now?" Buffy asked.

 "Travers will face trial." Stewart told her. "I'll be investigating as many of his dealings as possible. Including the Crucamentium."

 "And that means what?" Buffy asked. "Will Erin be safe from you people?"

 "Of course." Stewart assured her. "You've invoked the Right of Adara."

 "I can't tell you what that means to me." Buffy said drily.

 "And the rest of us?" Giles asked before Buffy could continue.

 "Travers will be in no position to hurt any of you." Stewart told him. "I will be back to ask questions."

 "He tried to hurt us." Erin said. "He hurt my Mommy and Daddy."

 "Yes, I've spoken with them." Stewart told her. "You needn't worry. I'll take care of him." Three sets of green eyes stared at him. Stewart had seen a lot in his time with the Council, but those eyes unnerved him in way that he couldn't explain. He looked at Buffy. "You should be receiving a new Watcher within a few weeks."

 "I don't need a Watcher." Buffy told him. "I have Giles."

 "So you do." Stewart agreed.

 "Wesley's only a phone call away." Buffy added. "And, of course, the others."

 "Others. Yes, I wanted to ask about that." Stewart said.

 "You have a problem with a Slayer having friends?" Buffy asked.

 "Not as such, no.' Stewart answered. "It is, however, somewhat unusual. Especially when you take into account that at least two of those friends are vampires." He gave a look to Spike.

 Buffy followed his gaze. "Spike isn't a friend, per se."

 Spike put a hand to his heart. "I'm hurt."

 "He's an occasional ally and general pain in the butt." Buffy finished.

 "I like him." Erin said.

 "Thanks, Pet." Spike said with a wink.

 "I see." Stewart said. "And Angelus?"

 "Angel is doing good work in LA." Wesley said before Buffy could say anything. "He saves lives and souls. Including mine."

 "Why?" Stewart asked. "I know about his soul, but he had it for a century. Why did he wait until now to fight the good fight?"

 "Every battle that he takes on, is one less that Buffy must face." Wesley said quietly. "You might say that Buffy inspired him. As she has the rest of these people here, in one form or another. Once you know her, really know her, you no longer have the option of simply turning your back. For she would never turn her back on you. Even after everything that Faith did to her, in the end, she put herself between Faith and the danger. And I'll tell you this, it isn't the Slayer who has those qualities, it's Buffy. It's her inner strength that makes her the Slayer that she is, not the physical."

 "Wow." Willow said.

 "I'll second that." Buffy agreed quietly.

 Wesley ducked his head with a blush.

 "Yeah," Spike said with a roll of his eyes. "The fact that she's too damn stubborn has nothing to do with it." That time, it was Willow that hit him upside the head. "Would you people quit smackin' me upside the head?" Spike complained.

 Giles looked at Stewart in some sympathy. "Don't try to figure it out. Just accept it and move on. It's better that way."

 "Right, then." Stewart said. He looked at Erin. "Your parents should be here tomorrow. They're quite eager to see you again."

 "A man named Andrew Thomas brought Erin here." Giles said. "He wouldn't, by chance, have been one of your men?"

 "Do you know what happened to him?" Stewart asked.

 "Vampire." Buffy said. "Big vampire. I dusted him."

 Stewart quirked an eyebrow at her. "I should hope so."

   It was early the next afternoon, when the couple arrived. Mary Temple had red hair and merry blue eyes that lit when they saw her daughter. Jim Temple had dark hair and brown eyes that radiated relief at the sight of Erin. Giles couldn't help wondering from where Erin had gotten her coloring.

 Mary gasped when she'd gotten her first look at Buffy. "Oh my. You could be sisters."

 "We were told that the resemblance was remarkable, but ..." Jim said.

 "Yes, what else were you told?" Giles asked.

 "Mr. Thomas told us that some men were going to try to take Erin." Mary told them. "That they planned to hurt her."

 "He said that he could get her to safety." Jim took up where his wife stopped. "We thought he was crazy, going on about vampires and prophecies. We thought it was strange, though, Erin has had nightmares about vampires since she was old enough to tell us about them."

 "They'll get worse." Buffy told them. "She needs to listen to her dreams. They can help her."

 Mary nodded. "Mr. Stewart told us that you saved Erin's life."

 "We're bonded." Erin told her and showed her the marks on her hands. They were faint, but still there. They always would be. "Buffy and Giles have them, too."

 Mary inspected them. They appeared as old scars. "How ...? Why?" She looked at Giles.

 "It's difficult to explain." Giles told them.

 "Mr. Giles, a week ago I had never heard of Sunnydale, California." Jim said, agitated. "Then two days before Mr. Thomas shows up, my boss tells me that I'm being transferred to the new branch of the company. It happens to be in Sunnydale. Then we found out that Erin was already here. That's an odd coincidence, don't you think?"

 "You're moving here?" Buffy asked.

 "If I want to keep my job." Jim told her. "You don't find that even a little strange?"

 "My coming here wasn't so different." Buffy told him.

 "I'm afraid that we don't have all the answers, Mr. Temple." Giles said. "If you do move here, however, we will do all we can to help Erin with her destiny."

 "I don't like my daughter's destiny." Jim told Giles. "How do I get her out of it?"

 "You don't." Buffy said. "You can't. Believe me, I've tried. My Mom tried. Erin will be a Slayer, like I am now. All you can do is love her and support her, it won't be easy, but we can help."

 "Before long a man from the Council will arrive." Giles told them. "A Watcher. Erin's Watcher. He ..."

 "I want you to be my Watcher." Erin said. "I want you and Buffy to train me."

 "I'm not a part of the Council anymore, Erin." Giles said. "You know that."

 "I don't care." Erin told him.

 "Erin," Buffy held out her hands and Erin climbed out of her Mother's lap and into Buffy's. Buffy held her and met her eyes. "Giles and I will be here for as long as we can. But you need someone that's just for you. Like Merrick was for me. Remember, I told you about him?" Erin nodded solemnly. "You need that."

 "But the Council ..." Erin began.

 Buffy shook her head. "Giles made arrangements, Erin."

 "He's Merrick's son." Giles told her. "And we'll be here."

   Three weeks later; there was a knock at Giles' door. Giles groaned as he sat up in bed and squinted at the clock. "Who'd be knockin' at eight o'clock on a Sunday morning?" Giles smacked Buffy on the rear as he stood to put on his robe. "Someone's knocking on the door."

 Buffy blinked up at him. "Something bad if they didn't just come in." Giles headed down the stairs as Buffy got up and pulled on a robe to follow. She paused on the stairs at the sound of Giles' voice.

 "David." Giles sounded pleased.

 "Rupert, how are you?" David asked with an English accent. "Sorry about the hour. I haven't quite caught up with the time difference yet."

 "Come in." Giles told him.

 Buffy went the rest of the way down the stairs. When she saw David, her mouth dropped open. He couldn't have been more than twenty-five. He had brown hair, green eyes and an earring in his left ear. A white silk shirt and black jeans completed the image. When he spotted her, he had one of the wickedest grins she'd ever seen.

 "Well, hello." David said. "I double my apologies, Rupert."

 "David Merrick, Buffy Summers." Giles introduced, a bit disconcerted by Buffy's reaction.

 "That's Merrick's son?" Buffy exclaimed.

 "That's the Slayer?" David exclaimed at the same time. "Someone's been a naughty boy." He looked back to Giles.

 "David." Giles warned.

 "I-I think I'll go get dressed." Buffy said and turned back around for the stairs.

 "Not on my account, I hope." David said.

 Buffy glared at him before she went upstairs. Less than a minute later she returned, clothes in hands, and headed for the bathroom.

 David looked at Giles. "Something you forgot to tell us?" He asked with a grin.

 "It's none of the Council's bloody business." Giles told him.

 "How long has it been going on?" David asked, more serious.

 "Not long." Giles said.

 David looked to where Buffy had disappeared from his sight. "Dad said that she was a beautiful girl." He looked back to Giles. "You sure you know what you're doing?"

 Giles smiled. "I know."

 David nodded. "I thought I'd stop by here, before rushing over to the Temple's. I thought it might be easier if they met me through you."

 "I'll see if they can come by this evening." Giles told him.

 "Now, for the big question. Why me, Rupert?" David asked. "You have to know that I wasn't high on the list of eligible candidates."

 "That's precisely why." Giles told him as they went to the living area. He gestured for David to take a seat.  David sat in the chair and Giles on the couch. "Erin needs structure and she needs discipline, what she doesn't need is to be suffocated. She's unique, David. Did Stewart fill you in?"

 "He told me what happened here." David told him. "About Travers. That you and Buffy have the Blood Bond with this girl."

 "This girl." Giles repeated. "Erin. A beautiful girl. Brave. You wouldn't believe how brave. I didn't want the Council to suck the life out of her." He considered the other man. "What did your Father tell you about Buffy?"

 "Not a lot." David admitted. "I was still at Oxford, when he ... We only talked a few times after he got here to take up his duties. He did tell me that Lothos had returned. For her. I never quite understood why."

 "Why Lothos had returned for her? Or why he had told you about it?" Giles asked.

 "Either one, really." David told him. "I wanted to blame her."

 "What stopped you?" Giles asked gently.

 "Dad's last letter." David responded. "With it were several snaps. She'd taken them. There was one of them together, she'd must have held her hand out as far as she could to take it. She was laughing and Dad just had that tolerant smile he got. You know the one?" Giles nodded. "The fact that she'd gotten him to cooperate at all was a miracle. I could see the affection. I also saw this little girl whose smile couldn't quite hide the terror in her eyes. I knew then why he'd done it." David looked down. "We got word sometime later that she had taken out Lothos. All I could hear was my Dad telling me what a remarkable girl she was."

 "Remarkable, huh?" Buffy said from the archway, having dressed. "Funny, all he ever told me was what a pain in the ass I was." Giles smiled at her.

 "Yes, he mentioned that, too." David told her.

 Giles went to dress and David and Buffy were quiet. Finally Buffy broke the silence. "Your Dad, he was irreplaceable." Buffy told him.

 "Rupert seems to have replaced him quite well." David commented.

 "Giles didn't replace Merrick." Buffy explained. "He just found his own place." David nodded. "God, he was so proud of you. I would have given anything to have somebody feel that way about me."

 Giles listened from out of sight.

 "He did." David told her.

 "Not the same." Buffy said with a shake of her head. "I was duty, responsibility. I know he cared, but that was always there. It was always about the work. But you, no one ever had a child as wonderful as you."

 "But, you're the Chosen One." David pointed out.

 "Which means diddly squat." Buffy said. "To my parents I had become a troublemaker, my friends thought I'd lost my mind and to Merrick, I was the Slayer. I'd only been training for a couple of months when Lothos ... He got in my head. I couldn't save him. When I faced Lothos again, after ... Well, I saved the school only to be kicked out. I had nothing else for Lothos to take from me."

 "What about your life?" David asked.

 "You don't get it." Buffy said. "It wasn't *my* life anymore. It never would be again. Not really. Buffy Summers ceased to exist."

 "Then, who are you?" David asked.

 "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."

 Giles looked down for a moment, before he joined them during the ensuing silence. He sat next to Buffy and took her hand in his.

Epilogue - Seven years later.

   Giles woke up, instantly alert. He knew before he reached out that Buffy wasn't there. He heard the creak of the floor downstairs. The old house that they'd bought after Buffy had graduated from college, had a lot of floors like that.

 Giles threw on his robe, opened the bedroom door and went downstairs. He found Buffy on the couch in the living room, staring down at a silver cross pendant in her hands, where they rested on her swollen belly. "Something wrong, Luv?" He asked as he sat next to her.

 Buffy never raised her eyes from the cross. "Waiting."

 "Waiting for what?" Before Buffy could answer, the phone rang. Giles gave Buffy an odd look before he answered the phone. "Yes," Giles turned to look at Buffy sharply as he listened to Wesley tell him that Faith had been killed. Once he'd hung up, he turned, once again, to Buffy. "You knew?"

 "I could feel it." Buffy told him.

 Giles took a better look at the cross in her hand. "Is that ...?"

 "The cross Angel gave me." Buffy finished for him. "It's for Erin."

 Giles closed his eyes as he realized that the night wasn't over.

 They sat together on the couch until the knock on the door came, just after dawn. They rose together to answer it.

 On the other side of the door David stood with Erin, now fifteen. "Erin's been called."

 Buffy didn't say anything, she just leaned forward and clasped the cross' chain around Erin's neck. When she pulled back she felt Giles' hands on her shoulder. "Erin, the Vampire Slayer."