Angels of Stone by Djinn

Diaz was sitting in his favorite restaurant just outside of the fifth ring of Nedrular when he got the call.

"You're back on," his superior said.

"That's impossible." He smiled at the waitress, pointed to his glass. She reached for the bottle and came over.

"I'm telling you it's not. Get back here now." The other angel's voice was not happy.

Diaz shook his head in regret as the server tried to refill his drink. "Sorry, Salah, duty calls."

She frowned. "Duty? Another was called so soon? But I thought..."

"You and me both." He winked out.

"About time you got here." Caliel looked up from his monitor.

"I can't believe another slayer was called this quick. What happened to Faith?"

"Nothing, she's still safely in jail. Gloria just reported in."

"Then why am I here?"

Caliel pointed at the monitor. They both stared in horror as Buffy tried to escape from her coffin.

Diaz finally found his voice. "But how? I saw her settled. She was safe."

"Ritual of Osiris."

"Damn. Like I didn't tell Isis that spell would be nothing but trouble in the long run."

"As if she'd listen to you. Or me. Or any of us lesser beings."

"Gods," Diaz agreed. He took another look in the mirror. "I've really got to get down there."

Caliel nodded. "I used to envy you being the guardian of slayers. But not this time. Not this time at all."

Just before he winked out, Diaz asked, "Who was powerful enough to do this?"

"Willow," he heard as he materialized in the Sunnydale cemetery. "Willow," he repeated. That one bore watching. He sent a thought to Tayna.

"I'm here," the other angel's voice was subdued, as she appeared at his side. They trailed behind Buffy as she walked across the cemetery lawn.

"Shouldn't you be with your charge?"

"She's safely lost in the woods. Korint convinced Xander that he was following the North Star."

"What's going on here, Tayna?"

"The spell of Osiris."

"I know. But why?" He looked over at Buffy. She had stopped, was looking around helplessly. He stepped behind her, put his hands on her shoulder. "You're ok," he whispered. Buffy started walking again.

"Is she ok?" Tayna looked skeptical. "She looks pretty messed up."

"She was yanked out of the afterlife. She just clawed her way out of her coffin. How do you think she should look?"

Tayna held up her hands. "Sorry, my mistake."

"How could you let this happen?" Diaz hadn't felt such anger in a long time.

"I couldn't interfere. You know that."

"You could have told us what she was planning. You had to know. Even if you were sleeping through most of this assignment."

Tayna flushed. "That's not fair."

"She had to kill an innocent creature. She had to lure it to her and stab it and bleed it. You weren't watching that? You didn't think that was important enough to tell us?"

"I never thought she'd pull it off. It's a hard ritual. Nobody does it right."

"Well somebody just did, and she's..." he pointed with his chin toward Buffy, "paying the price."

Tayna suddenly looked to her left. "Tara's found Willow. I have to go."

"You see her doing something like this again, something this dark, you tell me."

"I will. I'm sorry." Tayna disappeared.

Buffy tripped and fell hard on the grass. She sat dazed. Her mouth was moving but no sound came out.

Diaz knelt beside her, put his arms around her. "It's ok, Buffy. I'm here."

She didn't move. She couldn't feel him. Not in any normal way.

"Everything is going to be fine. I know this is strange for you. This isn't what was intended. But you're back and we have to make the best of it. You have to go on. There's just no choice."

She got up slowly. He stayed near her, trying to warn her when the demons got too close. But his voice wasn't loud enough to keep her from watching the demons destroy the robot. He couldn't prevent her scream of horror, or agony. But he understood it. He'd screamed it himself, his first few times in this job.

When she fled, he ran beside her. When she came to the alley, he saw her hesitate. Using the only voice that a human could hear, the one that guardians were only allowed to use in times of greatest danger, he suggested, "Up and over."

She vaulted the fence easily, leaving the demon behind, and running into her friends. Diaz nodded at the other angels hovering around the humans. Korint appeared slightly sheepish. Marisca leaned closer to Tara. Nathaniel looked over from where he stood behind Anya. Tayna just looked away.

He realized he was allowing himself to get distracted. He focused on Buffy, saw her recognize the demon coming up behind them. He could feel her fear, could sense that she wanted to run. But there was nowhere to go. The demon made short work of her friends' resistance.

Diaz leaned in close to Buffy. "Fight him."

She rose unsteadily. Walked over to the demon. He taunted her. Hit her hard.

"Fight him," Diaz repeated.

And she did. She fought them all. She was still the slayer. He had worried about that a bit. But even disoriented and traumatized she was the most magnificent charge he'd ever had.

And he'd had a lot of them. All of them in fact. All the slayers since the first. Until the day Buffy had died for the first time. He had waited for her, prepared to escort her soul back to the land of the dead. All the time feeling the call from the new Slayer, Kendra. But then Xander had revived Buffy, and her soul had sped back to her body. Diaz had felt the momentary confusion among his peers. Finally Gloria had been dispatched to take over as the other slayer's guardian, allowing Kendra's original angel to find himself a new, less momentous, charge. Gloria had moved on to Faith when Kendra died. Diaz had honestly not known if Buffy's second death would call another slayer or not. But it hadn't. He had been off the hook until, he had assumed, Faith died and he was called again.

He followed Buffy as she ran from her friends. Tried to keep her off the tower but couldn't reach her.

"Sandor, where's Dawn?" The slayer's sister was more sensitive to her guardian. She had been part of their world for too long not to know the sound of their voices, even if she no longer recognized them consciously.

"She's coming," Dawn's guardian answered.

"She needs to hurry."

"She is hurrying."

Diaz caught up to Buffy as she climbed the last bit to the top of the tower. She stood at the edge, staring down. Down at oblivion.

"Don't jump," he said, trying to put his heart into the sentiment. But he knew his voice wasn't very convincing. She deserved rest. She deserved peace. And peace lay down there, far below. On the pavement.

Dawn arrived in time, managed to get through to her. They got off the tower. But it was a long fall. He worried for Dawn. But she seemed fine.

"She's strong," Sandor's voice was close.

"Apparently so," Diaz replied as they followed the sisters home. They watched as Dawn cleaned Buffy up, got her changed into something more normal. They heard a new voice behind them.

"Oh, this should be interesting."

Diaz turned, spotted Natalia. She had been with her charge for years. Many, many years. "He's downstairs?"

She nodded as Dawn pushed her way downstairs.

They both followed Buffy. Diaz whispered, "Be careful." Natalia grinned and murmured, "Love him." Diaz glared at her, but then he saw the vampire's face as Spike realized what he was looking at. So many emotions in such a short space of time. He watched the slayer and the vampire together. Diaz didn't approve, and yet...

His reverie was broken as the others burst in, followed by their angels. The living room was suddenly very crowded. And very loud. Spike stormed out. Dawn yelled at them. Buffy spoke softly. Finally Diaz followed Buffy up to bed.

She stood for the longest time, staring at her room.

"Sleep," he urged.

She looked at the pictures and seemed to see something, something that frightened her a bit. He sensed an evil around, something not quite right. But there was nothing visible. Not yet anyway.

"Sleep," he said again. She finally got undressed and slid under the covers. He stood over her, watching as she fell asleep. Guarding her. As he always did, as he always would. That was his job.

Unknown to Diaz, several miles and many dimensions away, Sandor and Caliel were arguing.

"Why can't I tell him?" Sandor asked.

"The time isn't right." Caliel looked at the monitor. Dawn lay sleeping peacefully.

"But she's a slayer. He should have been her guardian, unless..."

Caliel's expression tightened.

Sandor gasped, "You knew. You knew this would happen? That Buffy would be brought back?"

"I may have had an inkling."

"Is that why the powers never activated Dawn? Because Buffy was coming back? And then there would have been..." he trailed off, horrified.

"Three slayers. Go ahead and say it." Caliel pulled out a scroll and began to read. "And the forces of darkness and light shall mass. Humans on the side of evil. Demons on the side of good. Spawn of both and neither in the middle. No reason. No sense. Just war. And utter destruction."

Sandor finished for him, "And you shall know the time by the triple incarnation of the Chosen One."

Caliel nodded. "No one must know about Dawn being a slayer. No one. Now return to your charge."

Sandor bowed his head. "I serve the powers," he said as he disappeared.

"As did I," Caliel replied grimly, "once upon a time." He said a few words to the monitor and it loaded the Ebay home page. He began to erase all links to his account. In a few moments, no one would ever know that he was registered as a desert gnome, or that he had sold the only remaining Urn of Osiris to an ex-demon from Sunnydale. Once the traces of his interference were obliterated, he spoke again and the monitor cleared, then filled with mist.

"Caliel? Is it done? Three slayers now exist on the Earth?"

"They do." Caliel allowed himself a smile. "And the witch is poised on the abyss. You have only to woo her gently."

The mist thickened. "I am pleased. You shall be rewarded greatly when the battle is over."

"I serve the powers."

"Yes," the voice was amused. "But which ones, Caliel?"

"I think you know that by now. You will activate the third slayer?"

"Not just yet, my friend. Not just yet." The screen went dark.

Caliel put the scroll away and prepared to return to Earth. He was still a guardian despite his high rank, and he needed to make sure his charge didn't do anything foolish. She really wasn't cooperating with the gift he had given her. But then pregnant demons were always so testy.

FIN