The Protection of Words

Summary: When tragedy strikes, Giles inadvertently utters a phrase to protect Buffy from the authorities. WARNING: Massive character deaths.

Timeline: beginning of season 3, but with a twist from a later season.

Thanks to my betas: none. Sorry for any mistakes; not feeling especially well so I'm doing this between showers (to regulate my temperature a bit better).

Disclaimer: BtVS and AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

Summers house

Rubbing her forehead to ease the tension building up, Buffy stopped her mother from starting the dinner preparations. "Mom, I'm really not feeling up to a dinner party tonight. Something happened last night on patrol and I think I need to Giles about it," she explained.

"Well, he'll be at the party, too." Joyce sighed heavily and added, "Buffy, I'm trying to deal with this Slayer issue, but I'd like one night of normalcy. Bad enough that dead cat had to screw up the day," she muttered to herself, forgetting about her daughter's heightened hearing. "Besides, if it was really that important, why didn't you mention it when he was over before?"

Buffy didn't want to admit the truth. Her little…flashes hadn't begun until after Giles left. Bringing up any mention of what could be hallucinations wasn't something she wanted to do with her mother – especially considering the gist of them. Thanks to Snyder, she couldn't go to the school to talk to her Watcher either. Maybe she could call him, though.

When she didn't answer right away, Joyce suggested, "If you were hurt last night, maybe you should lie down and rest."

"Yeah, I think I'll go do that," Buffy replied. She'd call Giles from her room and tell him over the phone.

It didn't come as a big shock to Buffy when her friend picked up the phone. "Hey, Willow… Is Giles around? I have to talk to him about something kind of important," she said.

"He had to go to a staff meeting…and I need to get to class," Willow lied; she had a free period and was just hanging out in the library with Xander. Before Buffy could catch her in the lie, she quickly blurted out before hanging up, "See you tonight! Bye!"

"Wait! Willow-!" Buffy tried to stop her, but only heard the dial tone in response. Something weird was going on with Willow; she was being all avoidy.

In the library, Xander inquired, "What'd Buffy want?"

"She said she needed to talk to Giles," Willow explained.

"And she can't wait a few hours?" he asked, still feeling a bit hostile over her disappearing act last spring.

Willow considered it, then nodded, "You're right; it's probably nothing." It's not as if Buffy said it was world-ending or anything. With that, she turned back to her magick book to learn another spell before Giles came back.

That evening…

Between the increasing flashes of the mental hospital and the weird vibes she was getting from her friends and mother, Buffy honestly felt like she was cracking up. Worse yet, Giles never called her back, and when she asked Willow about it, the redhead changed the subject to the party or Oz's band.

When she tried to escape to her room – after hearing her mother complain to Pat, Buffy spat the name in her mind,about her being back – Willow found her and automatically jumped to the conclusion that she was running again. Okay, so she was reorganizing her dresser and had clothes on her bed, but she needed something mindless to do before she lost hers…mind, that was.

Then her mom joined in, chasing Buffy down the stairs to where Xander jumped on the bash Buffy bandwagon. And Cordelia's 'supportive' comments weren't helping at all.

Suddenly she found herself back in the hospital, looking at a mother and father who were overjoyed to see her. She couldn't help herself…Buffy basked in the love for as long as she could.

Back in the Summers house

Sometime later…

Giles rushed into the house, calling for his Slayer, and stopped in his tracks when he saw the carnage. There was no other way to describe the sickening scene before him. People with bite marks, scratches…a couple were alive, but most weren't so lucky. "Buffy!" he cried out in fear.

He kept searching the house for her, only pausing when he ran into the bodies of people he knew. Cordy and Oz were in the kitchen; Willow, Xander and Joyce were upstairs in one of the bedrooms. He happened to look out the window and saw Buffy sitting on the lawn in the backyard.

Rushing out, Giles checked her for injuries. She appeared mostly unharmed, so he inquired, "What happened? Where are the zombies?"

"Is that what they were?" Buffy asked dazedly. "They disappeared after I hit Pat in the face with a shovel. I think it was Pat, but she had this weird… I think it was the mask on my mom's wall. Where is my mom and the gang?"

Giles moved over to hug her as he broke the news, "I'm afraid they didn't make it, Buffy. What happened?" he questioned gently.

She looked confused while she thought back. "Uhh, I don't know. One minute, I'm fighting with Xander and my mom, next thing I'm waking up to masked!Pat trying to kill me."

"'Waking up'?" Giles didn't think that sounded good. Was she knocked out?

Buffy sighed and chewed her lip nervously. "I've been having these…moments where I'm somewhere else."


"The hospital my parents put me in after Hemery," she rushed out. "Everyone there kept telling me that this world is my fantasy world; that I've been delusional for the last couple years."

She was having delusions? Now he was even more concerned. "How long has this been going on?"

"Well, I had a dream last night and didn't think to mention it, but when it happened this afternoon – after you left with the undead cat…" she clarified, then asked, "Didn't Willow tell you I called with something important to discuss?"

"Yes, but she also said it could wait until tonight," Giles explained.

Throwing up her hands, Buffy snapped angrily, "Great! So because she couldn't pass along one message correctly, they're all dead."

"Well, you can't be sure that anything would have been different if she told me it was urgent," he hastened to say. There was nothing to be gained by blaming a dead girl – even if it had turned out that it could have been prevented.

Immediately the fight went out of her. "I guess you're right. But I can't keep doing this, Giles. It's getting harder and harder to leave that other world," she said, looking very small and scared.

Giles was already mentally flipping through possible reasons for this, both natural and supernatural. Since she was the Slayer, he decided to focus on that part first. "Did anything unusual happen last night during your patrol?" he inquired.

Buffy went over the patrol in her mind and shrugged. "It was pretty normal…except for this one demon who stabbed me with this thing that came out of his hand – kinda like Wolverine from X-Men."

"X-Men?" Giles asked, showing his lack of American pop culture.

"A comic that Xander likes…liked," Buffy corrected herself.

He squeezed her shoulder in comfort. "I'll get to researching it tomorrow. Right now we have to notify the police."

As if his words had conjured them, a voice called out from the side of the house. "Freeze! Police! Hold your hands where we can see them!"

Carefully following the instructions, Giles inquired carefully, "How can we help you, officer?"

The policeman narrowed his eyes in suspicion at the calm manner of the pair in front of him. "You can start by explaining all the dead people in the house," he all but growled.

"Uhh, er…" Giles stammered before recalling a phrase he heard Snyder mention once or twice, "It was gang members on PCP. They just showed up and started killing everyone."

For a moment, it looked like the cop was going to ask another question, but then he simply nodded. "Very well. You should go someplace else while we clean up the scene. Young lady, do you live here?"

Blinking away the tears that welled up after she broke out of her shock, Buffy nodded, "Yes. My mom is one of the victims."

"Do you have a place to stay?" he asked in a kinder tone.

"Umm, I- maybe?" She turned to her Watcher and asked, "Giles, can I stay at your place?"

"At least until we can get ahold of your father, I suppose," Giles agreed somewhat reluctantly. He wasn't sure how it would look to the officer.

Fortune remained with them because the cop just smiled slightly and said, "Good. We'll call you when we need an identification on your mother."

A short while later…

Mayor's office

"I don't understand. This would have been the perfect opportunity to get rid of the Slayer by pinning all those deaths on her. Why didn't the police push harder?" Deputy Mayor Allan Finch wanted to know after he summarized the report of the attack at 1630 Revello Drive for his boss.

The Mayor gave a quirky little sigh before he responded, "It was simply an unfortunate side effect to the spell I created to protect the demons from scrutiny. Whenever somebody mentions certain key phrases, the authorities automatically accept it and move on. Never thought the good guys would use it. Oh well, it's not as if she can stop my plans anyway." Then he turned back to eviscerating a young child for a tribute to one of his demon allies.

A/N: This was meant to be short so there are loose ends that won't get tied up 'on-screen'. You can assume that Giles was able to figure out which demon (the one from 'Normal Again') it was and cured Buffy.

Challenge: I wanted to explore the notion of why the cops bought the 'gangs on PCP' line so much. I think it turned out darker than I intended.