"This is yours." Giles stood aside in the open door and showed Cordelia her bedroom. She stepped into the room and looked around. The four poster bed opposite the door looked so lush she was considering forgetting about the shower and just curling up there, though she wasn't tired. To the left, the large windows had long, heavy, red velvet curtains tied back and offered a 'splendid' views of the fields that Giles owned, both having sills that could be used as window seats, and a large wardrobe and vanity table placed between the two. The right side of the room housed a desk and chair and a small curved opening that had been refurbished as a wardrobe. Cordelia walked across the wooden floor and dropped the fashion catalogues that Vin had given her onto the bed and sat beside them. Giles walked into the room from another one across the hall, carrying a t-shirt and sweatpants, which he placed on the bed.
"It's not the biggest room, Sophie laid claim to that one years ago and no one can break whatever spell she put on it."
"It's great." Cordelia pointed to the closed door on the right of the room. "What's in there?"
"Ah." He pushed away from the desk and opened the door. "Bathroom. It's shared, but you have the only private entrance." He walked to the other door in the bathroom and opened it, revealing the hall that they had just been in, then over to the shower, turning a lever. "Shower on." He turned it again. "Off." He reached inside and turned an identical one. "Temperature." Then, reached down and pointed at the taps. "Bath, hot and cold." He straightened up, smiling, a little proud of his tour.
Cordelia leaned against the door jamb. "Shampoo? Conditioner? Body wash?" He walked over to the bathroom mirror and opened it. "Well, you've thought of everything."
"Any other questions?" he asked, following her out to the bedroom.
Cordelia sat on the bed again, Giles leaned against the desk. "They're your Great aunts… how?"
"They'd been playing with magic for years before either myself or my father were born. They'd summoned a demon who could grant them eternal youth; in exchange, they were to become his minions. Vin did a little fancy footwork with her wits and they managed to dodge the contract. The demon was furious and, had my grandmother not shown up when she did, they'd probably have been eviscerated."
"Wow. So they got eternal youth free of charge. That's… kinda cool. I'm not saying they were right," she added, when Giles shot her an unimpressed look, "just: well done them."
Giles nodded. "They've always been a little lax when it comes to the repercussions of magic but they've gotten better. They helped to rehabilitate Willow after she abused her magic." He stood straight and stretched. "You should get some sleep." He pointed at the clothes on the bed. "Those will have to do for tonight until we can get you some clothes tomorrow."
"Where're we going tomorrow?"
"Ah, I'm going up to London to the Council. I have some work that needs doing." Giles awkwardly grasped for the best way to approach the next topic. "I'll most likely be seeing Xander."
Cordelia nodded. She looked him straight in the eye. "I'm not ready. Xander, Willow, Buffy. Angel. Fred that isn't Fred." He watched as she picked at something on her hand. "I just need some time."
He avoided her gaze. "I won't say a word. And I'll try to dissuade them from coming down here for a while." He pushed himself away from the desk. "Try and get some sleep. If you need anything I'm right across the hall."
Giles sat at the desk in his room, trying to focus on the reports from the Council on the Slayers. 1800 in all, though not including what Dawn had coined the 'Potential' Slayers. Potential not in the sense that they had been using before: girls who could have been called as Slayer had Faith been killed. Rather, girls who showed an aptitude for fighting but it being unclear whether they were truly Slayers or just really good fighters.
He read the report from Wood in Cleveland, who, though not having found any new slayers, reported that Faith had dispatched a rather hateful vampire crime lord, Faith's statement of the event attached. Threw aside one folder and picked up another. The words Dawn Summers, WIT were scrawled on a label across the top and underneath Giles' own name was written. Giles flipped open the cover and looked at the smiling photo of Dawn before turning the pages to a blank page further back where he began writing up the details of their last session. Half an hour into the write up, a knock came at the door.
He didn't look up as the door opened and footsteps padded up to him.
"What's the Slayer's Organisation?" Cordelia asked, walking over to his bed and sitting up close to the headboard, tucking her knees up under her chin.
"You mentioned it yesterday."
Giles looked at the clock on his bed-side table, reading 1.27, then glanced over his shoulder at her. "I thought you were getting some sleep."
"I've been dead for 17 months, I don't need sleep. What's the Slayer's Organisation?"
He explained distractedly, busy trying to get Dawn's report done, as well as his own reports on other Watcher's reports, all to be finished for tomorrow. A convoluted system, but necessary since many of the Watcher's in the field had never been officially trained, like Wood.
"It's the main branch of the re-established Watcher's Council. After The First had it blown up, there were very few of us left, about 50, including those in other international offices. A few weeks after we defeated the first, I contacted the Council and we were all flown back. Since Willow had activated all the Potential Slayers, we were vastly outnumbered, and it was no longer one slayer, one watcher. So we needed a new system. Better than the old one. Where the Slayer's had more agency. The Council consists of the surviving Watchers as the senior members. The Slayer's Organisation consists of newer Watchers and the Slayers. These Watcher's consist of people who have an aptitude in fighting and discipline and teaching, people we could give a few quick lessons to and send them out into the world with squads of Slayers. Xander being one of them: his military knowledge and his years helping Buffy allowed me to get him qualified straight away, as well as Robin Wood - his mother was a slayer- and Buffy and Faith. There's also our research department - ancient relics, texts, artifacts. It's more or less just rebuilding our library and a team who can translate any texts that need translating. There's a medical center. Buffy and Faith do a good deal of running the entire operation and the original members of the council are essentially pencil pushers." Giles smiled wryly.
"It must kill you not to be fighting."
"Oh, no, I still go out to the field. When I can." Giles stood up and took off his glasses, tossing them on the table. And rubbed his eyes. It had been a very long day. He reached for his cup of coffee, taking it with him as he stood and began pacing around the room. He glanced at Cordelia. She was staring into space on his bed.
"So," she pointed to him, "senior watcher overseeing everything, the Slayer's Organization is Buffy, Faith and a bunch of untrained watchers looking after a squads of girls and Xander is a part of this?" Giles nodded. "What's the Watcher's Organization?"
"Watcher's in Training. Dawn's a part of it and she's excelling."
Too busy pacing, he didn't notice Cordelia shift. "And Ancient Relics is a department that is pretty much what we used to do in the library when there was a Big Bad?"
"Well, that's a very simplistic view of it but, um, yes."
Cordelia smiled. She gestured at the table. "And what's all this?"
Giles sighed. "Our foibles."
He wanted to correct her but stopped himself. "The system is somewhat better than the older one but it's still new. There are still hiccups. It can be messy. Buffy doesn't believe much in paperwork and I'm beginning to think she's right. Too many Slayers, with too few Watchers and even more paperwork."
"What can I do to help?"
He looked at her surprised. "What?"
"I'm here. I'm not doing anything. What can I do?" It took him a moment to fully understand what she was talking about. "I used to help Wesley all the time with research and stuff. What can I do? And besides - " She pointed to her head. "- visions."
"Um." He wanted to argue with her, tell her to get some rest. The one thing he didn't need right now was Cordelia Chase disrupting the system. But he couldn't. It wasn't that she looked sad and even a little pathetic in the over-sized clothes. It was the energy in her eyes. He looked at the desk then reached and pulled up a sheet of paper and a few books. "I wouldn't mind getting some sleep before tomorrow but um-"
"Gimme." Cordelia held out her open hands.
"One of our Watcher's in Russia found a few victims with this carved into them." He handed her the sheet of paper with what looked like a simple squiggly line on it. "I haven't been able to find any context for it but I have a few more texts to glance through."
She jumped off the bed and snatched the paper and books from him, beaming. He followed her out of the room with his eyes. "Good night," she called as she pulled the door closed. Giles stared at the door a moment longer, then turned his attention to the table before he finally decided that the clean-up could wait until the morning and that the train to London would be enough to finish up the final reports.
Giles bounded down the steps from the front door to the lobby of the Council. Though he was in great shape to tackle all the stairs, he had to wonder at the decisions made by other members of the council about the location, as well as other subjects. Buffy called a lot of the shots. She wasn't afraid to delegate but when they were re-establishing the Organisation, she gave older members of the Council, like Quentin Travers and Roger Wyndham-Pryce, little movement on many things. What they did have a say in was the organisation of the Research departments. And the location and layout of Headquarters. Giles was immensely gleeful when he remember that Buffy had made them, essentially, glorified architects and interior designers. He had always found it amusing when Buffy butted heads with the Council. He would always root for her. And he hoped deep down she felt the same. She gave them senior member roles but Dawn had let on to him that it was just for show. "As long as you're in charge when Buffy's away," Dawn had said to him during training one day, "she can slay easy."
As he rounded the corner, he found Roger and Quentin sitting at a table. His stomach turned everytime he caught sight of the two men he close to despised. He composed himself before he walked up to them. He cleared his throat. "Gentlemen."
Roger barely looked at Giles, while Quentin looked up. "Rupert."
"Faith dealt with Doro. Robin's report is on your desk."
Giles reached into his pocket as his phone rang. "We're still working on it." He frowned as he pressed the answer button. "Hel-Hello?"
Cordelia was on the other line. "Hey. How's London? Did you get my things?"
Giles glanced at Roger and Quentin. "It's alright. Sophie's working on it." He turned his back on them. "Have you learnt anything?"
"Yeah, the symbol comes from Byzantine Empire-"
"Will you let me finish?" She sighed, exasperated. She began again and Giles could have sworn she was speaking slower than before and he would have bet she was doing it on purpose. "It comes from the Byzantine Empire in the 900s. It has the power to control demons that aren't necessarily on the bad side of the spectrum."
"Such as our friendly ensouled vampires, to name an example. They can also control the likes of empaths, demons who are neither good nor bad. Higher Powers with demonic properties."
He thought he could hear her wincing. "It actually says that."
"No, but I'd rather not find out."
"You won't, not unless you go to Russia."
"His name's Kovos, if that's any help."
"Can you keep researching? You have free reign of the study."
"Gee, I'm honoured." He would need to have a word with her at some point about her use of sarcasm. "Oh, and one other thing. He feeds off of and can manipulate the cold."
"That explains the sudden rise in temperature in Russia. Thank you."
"Hey, you won't forget my clothes, will you?"
He rolled his eyes. "Sophie's working on it. Bye." He hit the disconnect button and turned to find Xander standing opposite him.
"Hey. Who was that?"
"Vin." Xander raised his eyebrows. "She had some information about this symbol that Kennedy and Sloane found in Moscow." And he relayed the information to his fellow Watchers.
Giles and Xander left soon after.
"Vin? You asked Vin for help with Watcher business?"
"She and Soph have been around for a while."
"Yeah but Lavinia and Sophronia? You don't think that's risky?"
"They're my blood, I trust them. I might not always like their methods but... they... uh... Have methods. Besides they more than proved themselves when it came to Willow."
Xander lifted his hands in surrender. "Alright, alright. It's just surprising. You've never let them help out before."
Giles conceded that he had perhaps gotten a bit defensive. "They've moved into the house."
Giles stopped walking and turned back to find Xander had stopped in his tracks. "I didn't expect you to be so stunned. They have as much claim on that house as I do."
"It was just… unexpected. I always thought that there was no real love lost between you guys."
Giles nodded. "I suppose. But it doesn't change who they are to me." They began walking again. "Anyway, what are you doing up here? Shouldn't you be downstairs?" Downstairs was where they housed all the tactical equipment and 'game room.'
"Dawn forgot some school books that I think she needs." Giles frowned. "She stayed with you again? What's wrong with her dorm?"
"You know how these places can get, college students can get really rowdy."
"And you know this from experience?"
Almost 10 years ago, Giles would never have thought that he would call Xander a colleague, let alone that he would respect the young man. Maybe it's the eyepatch. "You would tell me, if she was having any trouble?"
"She's still a teenager, Giles-"
"I'm not asking you for the good of the Council, I'm asking you for Dawn. Please."
Xander nodded and they continued to walk. "Any word from Buffy?"
"You'll probably hear from her before I do."
Cordelia touched the old clock on the mantle, brushing her fingers along the ornate detailing, her other hand in her pocket, her fingers tracing the ornate pattern on the pocket watch resting there.
She felt strange. Not like any of the other times she was sent back. She felt like she was getting used to everything again and not just her body. This time felt different. This time she really felt like herself.
She glanced over at the desk laden with ancient tomes open and unopened; books that had been slammed down in frustration; a stack of books so daunting that she decided to leave them as a last resort. There wasn't anything overly interesting in any of them; more of the same things said in different ways. Some factually; some flowery. Basically, she didn't have anything new to tell Giles. Lavinia had spent the morning needling her about her 'adventures', what it was like being a higher power. She picked up quickly on the topics Cordelia had wanted to sidestep. Cordelia in turn asked Vin if there was anything else Giles hadn't told her about. She didn't want details, not right now, she had enough to process, but she wanted to be prepared. Vin repeated to her what Giles had told her yesterday, a quick run down of what everyone was up to. After lunch, Vin left Cordelia to research mode and went to get some of their stuff from the cottage.
Cordelia was alone, roaming the halls of the house. The house that was deceptively big on the outside. The common rooms were big: the kitchen was spacious but Cordelia imagined it got hectic fast. To the left was a pantry/ utility room/ door to back garden; to the right was a decent sized dining room which opened onto to a sun room. There were doors both in the sun room and the kitchen leading in the living room slash library slash TV and play room; the biggest room in the house from what she could tell. One side was dedicated to research mode. Bookshelves were lining most of the outer facing walls, but one side of the room had sofas, desks, chairs, stacks of notepads, lamps; all your demon hunting, researching needs. The rest of the room had a clear mark of the American Youth invasion. There was a large TV placed to the side of the fireplace, on top of a medium sized bookshelf housing what looked like DVDs, the funiture was too comfy looking to be Giles' doing, especially the L-Shaped sofa.
Across the hall was a more sedate looking study. Giles', she guessed, for when the invasion began. The second floor, or first, as Vin corrected her, had 6 bedrooms ranging from medium to large. Giles, Dawn, Andrew and Anya had their rooms here: Xander decided to redecorate the Attic to house three roomS: one for him, one for Buffy and one for Willow and Tara. Faith had a room too, but she had only occupied it twice since they came to England, Vin said. And now, three more rooms were occupied. This place was going to be busy if ever everyone decided to come home at once. Cordelia swallowed the thought down. She wasn't ready for that. Not yet.
So she found herself back in the living room, distracting herself from all the explanations that people were going to be looking for from her.
When she pulled her attention away from the clock, the world around her had changed.
The air around her felt cold; colder than she had ever felt in her life. Something in the air warned her: this wasn't a natural chill. Cold was supposed to pierce the skin outside in, not the other way around. She felt her blood literally freezing inside her. A light flickered in the window of a small house before her, getting darker and darker. Instinctively, she ran towards it. She slowed as she reached the house and cautiously walked inside, towards the room with the fire. As she walked in, the light went out but the natural light from outside cast a blue glow around the room. By the fireplace stood a woman with long dark hair, holding a dagger, staring at Cordelia.
Cordelia was about to turn to face what the woman was staring at. The woman's eyes were wide with fear and she opened her mouth to say something. Her voice was cut off by icicles protruding from her body. From the outside in. Through her stomach, mouth, eyes, chest, heart, throat. Cordelia screamed and turned to face burning red eyes.
It took Cordelia a few seconds to realize that she had been screaming outside of the vision and was kneeling on the floor. Vin was kneeling beside her rubbing her back. She gasped for breath as the noise subsided. Once she got her breath back, she got the her feet and stumbled to the door connecting to the kitchen,
"Maybe you should lie down." Vin reached out a reassuring hand but Cordelia batted it away.
"I'm fine. I need to call Giles."
It wasn't that Dawn was a bad fighter. She was very good indeed. She just needed more proper training. Watching Buffy fight is one thing but learning all about the techniques and timing was another thing entirely.
Giles easily backed away as Dawn swung her right arm at him and, anticipating her next move, raised his arm to block her strike, then whipping the side of his wooden sword against her hand, quickly. She dropped her sword.
"Ok, I'm done." She tenderly rubbed here his weapon had hit her.
He had long ago given up apologising for her injuries but he did hold back more in training. It was difficult finding that space between watcher and... Father figure? Nowadays he felt more like a father figure to Dawn than Buffy. "We can try it again if you'd like."
Giles studied her face for signs of defeat but there were none. But Dawn's one word answers had always been a sign that something was bothering her. "Do you want to talk about it?" Dawn looked at him. "College, training? Anything?" Dawn shook her head. "Have you heard from Buffy?"
"She called. She asked for you." Giles looked at Dawn, an eyebrow raised. "She did. She just didn’t say whether or not she really cared."
"I know it's difficult for you. Her not being here. It's worrisome, I know, I understand. But you're not alone. I'm always at most a phone call away."
Dawn's face softened. "I know. Do you need a hand with reports?" she asked as they left the training room and walked towards the connecting hallway to the offices.
Giles smiled at her. "Yes, alright." Giles reached into his jacket pocket as the shrill ringtone from his phone went off. Dawn watched him amused as he tried to maintain that he was not phased by fast moving technology. "Hello." Dawn tried to listen to the voice on the other end but it was muffled.
"I... A vision." She gasped. "Kovos. He's going to kill again." She took a breath and described the demon in detail to him.
"There wasn't an address." He heard her take a deep breath which ended more like a sob.
"Alright. Don't worry about it. I'll call Kennedy and keep her informed."
"Giles. It was gruesome. I felt it. He's feeding. He's using them to get stronger and marking them for fun."
"Are you at the house? Where's Vin?"
"She's here with me. She's making me tea. I'm fine. I'll be fine. Just keep them safe."
"I'll call Kennedy. I'll be another hour and then I'll start for home. You'll be alright."
"Is everything ok?" Dawn asked as Giles hung up the phone.
"No. Can you go to Quentin and tell him I've received a description of Kovos and I'm passing it on to Kennedy?"
Dawn nodded as she went.
Lavinia refused to let Cordelia lift a finger. In fact she refused to let Cordelia do anything other than walk over to the couch and curl up with some blankets. She returned with two hot cups of, not tea but hot chocolate. She handed one to Cordelia and hugged the other one as she sat on the other end of the couch facing Cordelia.
Cordelia cocked an eyebrow at the surprising gesture of comfort. "What, no tea? No mystical remedy?"
"Do you still have headaches when you have visions?"
"Dull ones, but I figured that's a small price to pay."
"Then your response to the vision wasn't pain, it was shock. Sugar is good for shock." Cordelia smiled, watching the witch play with her marshmallows as she waited for her own drink to cool down. She felt tired but she didn't want to sleep. Visions she could deal with but dreams not so much, if last night was anything to go by. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Cordelia shrugged. "Nothing to talk about. I just need to get used to the visions again."
"You will. We'll work on some meditative techniques. You're not alone." Vin reached over to slipped her hand into Cordelia's. Cordelia looked down at it, unsure. She hadn't had many girlfriends before... The only real one being Fred. Cordelia pulled her hand away and swept it through her hair.
She was thankful for the sound of wheels crunching the gravel outside.
Giles walked into the living room, followed closely by Sophie, whose arms were laden down with bags and bags of clothes. Cordelia's eyes widened at the sight. She quickly forgot about the vision and started fantasizing about trying on all the clothes.
"Are you alright?" Giles pulled a seat up closer to the couch.
"Yeah. Did you give your person a heads up?"
"Yes. Xander's going to go to Russia with two other Slayers and hopefully they can put an end to this."
Cordelia turned her attention to the abundance of bags Sophie had carried in with her. "Wow. Sophie, thank you -"
"Oh, no, god no, those aren't all for you." Sophie rummaged through the pile and picked out two medium-sized high-street shop bags and passed them to Cordelia, then picked up the other 7 or 8 bags and carried them out of the room.