Giles woke to the sound of an insistent high-pitched buzzing, which was followed by a crash and then the thud of a slamming door. As silence descended, he fumbled for his glasses on the bedside table. He glanced in confusion from the time displayed on the clock to the empty space next to him in the bed.
"I thought nothing but an impending apocalypse or a half-price sale at the mall, would get her up this early today," he grumbled as he sat up, swung his feet to the floor and looked around for his clothes.
"Don't even think about getting out of that bed," Buffy ordered from the open doorway. "You were supposed to still be asleep." The complaint was followed by a pout.
He looked up in time to see her shut the door with her foot and, awkwardly juggling her load, reach out and lock it. She walked slowly across the room toward the bed, carefully balancing a large tray laden with covered dishes, a pitcher of orange juice, two glasses and a bud vase containing a bright yellow daisy.
"A rather insistent buzzing woke me up," Giles said, settling back against the headboard. His gaze wandered admiringly over the sight of her dressed in nothing but his shirt.
She looked down at the tray and grinned sheepishly. "Yeah. I guess it was kinda loud. I sorta forgot that I had put some muffins in the oven and then I had to use the broom to slay the smoke detector." She leaned over to put the tray on the side table and then looked up concerned. "Wait a minute… you heard it here? Does that mean the soundproofing spell isn't working any more?"
"Hmmm," he replied, staring distractedly at where the shirt was parted at the top and the soft curve of a breast was visible. He reached out towards the nearest button.
"Giles!" She straightened. "You heard the smoke detector!"
"So people can hear us?"
Giles finally looked up at her and grinned wolfishly. "Don't worry, Buffy, the soundproofing is only in one direction. We can hear the world outside, but…" he reached over and pulled her down on top of him to whisper, "…you can make all the noise you want and I'll be the only one to hear you." He punctuated his words with a soft bite to her neck, laughing when she squealed happily.
A tall, lean figure stood at the rocky edge of the outcropping overlooking Whispering Pines. Sunlight began to spill over the horizon, drawing long shadows on the landscape. He examined the quiet suburb, the layout easily visible from his viewpoint on the hillside. With a whisper of foreign words on the early morning breeze, flecks of pale blue light appeared, speckling the alleyways webbing along the cityscape. The illuminations moved slowly from block to block, street to street.
“It’s a bloody swarm,” Ethan chuckled. “Council-ordered locusts plaguing the quiet boulevards of my adopted home.” He shook his head, turned and walked determinedly back through the mouth of the cave. The temperature dropped quickly as he moved deeper until he reached a cavern lit by lanterns and warmed by a mystical, smokeless fire.
“They’ve sent an army of clichéd soldiers to thieve our destinies from us, young one. Pity such fools walk amongst us,” he whispered softly as he approached the sleeping young lady spread out on a shabby cot. “And how is my Slayer today?”
Katako shifted restlessly, her features distorted with pain.
“You’re almost ready, pet. You won’t suffer much longer. Once you’ve accepted the reality the spell has formed for you, the pain will pass. This should be the final time."
Ethan stared into the face of the young Slayer. As she rolled to face him, he gently drew a thick braid of raven hair from her face. “You’re too willful. You must let go of your mind and allow the magic to take hold,” he urged gently. Her features seemed to relax. “Good… yes, that’s it. That’s my girl.”
The sorcerer rose to his feet and took a quick inventory of his powders, herbs and alchemic ingredients scattered about the cave. “The soldiers will be coming soon and I’ll need you, Katako.” Ethan frowned. “I’ve exhausted much of the powers I’ve taken in bending you to my service." He then brightened. "Luckily, I can take all I need and more. I can still reach them. All of them.”
He reached for a small vial next to the bed, pouring the last bit of silver liquid onto his hand. "Now, pet, don't disappoint me. See me for who you want me to be." He sprinkled the silver drops over the young girl, crying, "Awaken!"
As Katako yawned and sleepily opened her eyes, Ethan stepped back, giving her space. She pushed herself upright, rubbing the fatigue from her eyes as she brought her feet to the ground. She looked around the cave and then focused on the person standing a short distance from her. “Something troubles you, Master?” she asked softly.
“They gather near, Katako,” Ethan stared out the mouth of the cave. “We’re running out of time.”
“How do you feel today, sensei?” She got to her feet and approached him. “You look stronger.”
“Looks can be deceiving.” Ethan smiled reassuringly. “I’m still weak, my child. I am healing, becoming stronger with every passing day, but I fear I’ve reached the limits of what naturopathic cures can do. I require more, I’m afraid.”
“We have a destiny to fulfill, a duty to perform. Balance must be restored to the Slayer line, Katako. You and I must stop at nothing to make you the one and only Slayer." He glanced away, regretful. "But without my health, I am only a burden to you.”
“Never! You are my Watcher, the proud and honorable Takeshi Ito. You give me my strength and my courage no matter your physical condition,” Katako declared. “Together, we can make things right.”
“Your courage does me proud, but if we’re to win this coming battle, we will need more than what I can provide on my own.”
“What is it you require?” She gestured toward the powders and herbs. “I can search for more supplies if need be. You have but to ask.”
“There is the girl I spoke of, the one called Dawn,” Ethan said. “She can make me whole again.”
“With magic, Katako. It is time to educate you in the applications of mystical tactics in warfare.” He removed his shirt and moved to sit within a circle of salt. Three small bowls of various herbs were before him and a jar of ash sat at his side. “Let’s begin with my personal favorite.” He smiled as he removed from his wrist the golden, symbol-etched cuff he’d once given Dawn. “Time to reach out and touch someone.”