"What the hell was that thing?"

The blond Slayer pushed through the door to Giles' London flat looking cranky and a little petulant. The others trailed in after her, worse for the wear and confused. Giles last of all, closing the door behind him. It was quite a crowd tonight in his small 2 bedroom space. Faith plunked herself down on the sofa with a bottle of Jack. Xander sat near her not making any jokes and Willow was somewhere beyond looking out the window nervously. Buffy was silently glad Dawnie was away at college so she could lead a normal life.

"I don't know." Giles admitted at last. "It presented itself as a spirit. The spell Willow and I performed should have worked."

He pushed his glasses up and pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes to try and realign his focus. He replayed the events of the night and relived their spectacular failure in ridding the streets of London of what he thought was a ghost. Routine possession reliving a sequence of events with a very horrid ending. Single victims threw themselves off the Cronoker Bridge in apparent suicide. It claimed three lives this week alone and more to come if they couldn't stop it.

"Should have." The blond retorted, not happy to have been defeated that night. Her Watcher shook his head. Spirits were never really his area of expertise. He had no idea what could present itself as a ghost and not be vulnerable to a ghost's weaknesses. He thought it was safe to say that it wasn't a poltergeist or something similar considering the manifestations were completely different. He suddenly thought of Deirdre and her hobby of spirits. She knew practically every type that existed but she was dead and he couldn't ask her. Once upon a time she was the one that mentioned Eyghon out of pure fascination for "living sleep" and it was Ripper that took it a step further.

He shook his head.

"I'm afraid I'm out of my depth as far as this is concerned. Deirdre was the spirit expert, not me."

He moved to his bookshelf to pick up likely candidates for researching potential. He piled them out for the gang to go to only noticing once he was finished that Willow had not moved. In fact, she seemed very lost in thought and wasn't much aware of what was going on. He moved to her side, careful of her since their daring ploy to thwart the First. It had only been a week or two and Giles thought she might be in shock still from everything they'd been through.

"Willow?"

She started, as if she had no idea he existed at all, let alone had come up beside her. Her round green eyes considered him trying to spark recognition of his features.

"Oh, hey!" The identity dawned on her at last. "What's…"

She trailed off seeing everyone except Faith absorbed in books. She looked alarmed, scrambling to get out of her seat and make up for lost time. The Watcher gently helped, giving her a concerned look as he did and delaying her from crossing to the stack of books. His jade eyes searched her as he held her arm.

"If you need to rest…" he offered lightly.

"No! No, I'm ok." She returned, shaking off his concern. She wasn't going to let anyone know just how bone weary she was from everything. She hid it well all things considering. "I was just thinking. We can still ask her, can't we?"

Giles looked puzzled for a moment, not following. "Deirdre?"

"Yeah. Why can't we ask her? Spirits communicate with the living don't they?"

"Well, yes, I suppose they do. Or, rather, they can. It's just a matter of finding the right spell I suppose."

"Good, then we'll do that. We can bypass research mode for once." Buffy was all for this new plan of action.

"Are you sure?" Jade eyes glowed with concern again, hesitant to let Willow strain herself. She brushed them off and smiled. He was mollified and moved to make preparations. It seems they had a course of action, albeit an unusual one, but he was happy to have things resolved quickly. It wouldn't take long to find out a simple spirit summoning ritual and have it performed. Far less time to do that than to figure out what this spirit thing actually was. For once he felt like they were on the upper hand in a fight.

When the circle was set up a short time later he positioned Faith, Buffy, himself and Willow around it at the four points. There were specific instructions not to move or break the circle. Willow sat at the head of the circle and started chanting, the powder line of the circle glowing without much help from the candles each person held. The Slayers watched from their posts, knowing they had to do this and yet neither of them magically inclined.

A swirling vortex seemed to appear out of the floor in the middle of the circle, a white mist flooding out of it in rolling waves, coating the floor in fog. Deirdre was solidifying, a younger version than Giles expected, her form taking insubstantial shape in front of them.

"Oh, hey…OH!"

Xander was interrupting from the kitchen, his eye patch preventing him from seeing the duffel on the floor Buffy was using to carry weapons in. He tripped and before he could catch himself he crashed into Faith from behind. The brunette pitched forward, trying to find something to stop her fall and literally grasping at air. Everything happened at once. Someone screamed, maybe the witch, and the air seemed to whine with energy. With the circle broken the lights went out and everyone was left in the dark for a few sputtering moments.

"Owwww." Xander lamented, rubbing his bruised shin on the floor. Giles scrambled up and clicked on a lamp. There was chaos in front of him and it took a minute to sort it out. Buffy was the first to react. "Oh my God, Willow!" The blond dashed toward her friend who was lying prostrate on the floor. Giles follow this with his eyes and ran over a form he didn't expect.

"Deirdre?" She was lying in the middle of where the circle had been and appeared to be unconscious as well. He went to her and rolled her over gently, finding her form very solid and warm beneath his hands. To say he was shocked was a gross understatement. She roused a little as he picked her up, taking in the appearance of her. Had they ever been so young? It was hard to remember but staring at the only girl in their gang looking like she was no more than twenty five made it seem like no time had passed at all. He set her on a chair in the kitchen and set about doing what he did best in a crisis, making tea.

"Christ, Ripper, that was rough." She complained, not quite into her senses yet as she had not realized that he was older, she was not where she thought she was, and the gang was nowhere in sight. "Next time find something a bit easier on the…"

She finally raised her head and her eyes focused. "Bloody hell!" she breathed, unable to process things for a few long minutes. Giles put the teacup in front of her, the leaves steeping in boiling water. He took the chair opposite her.

"Hello Dee."

"Ripper, I don't understand…"

"Actually, ah, it's Rupert now. Or Giles as the gang calls me."

"They're here, too?"

Giles realized what he'd said and paled a little. Most of the old gang was dead but he couldn't very well tell her that and risk the past. He'd adopted a new one in the form of a family.

"No. I don't run with the people I used to anymore. You might say we all grew up."

Well, most of them had. Ethan was still debatable but then again maturing was always optional.

"I was referring to the Slayer and her friends. Family it feels like sometimes."

There was unmistakable affection in his tone. He'd watched each one grow with pride and in his shock had forgotten one of them was unconscious in the living room. He sighed and tried to figure out what went wrong. She was only supposed to be a spirit. Had they gone wrong somewhere? He puzzled it a while and tried to go over the details of the spell again, each one screaming that it should have worked properly.

"The Slayer?"

He let himself grin, looking recklessly handsome as he did. "Yes. It seems I turned into my father's son after all though it seems to have worked out well, in the end."

Except for the nightmarish Apocalypses and impossible choices to make. He supposed his life would have been full of that, anyway, if his youth was an indication. He could not get over how Dee looked and the fresh bloom in her cheeks and the shine in her eyes. He may not ever have considered himself attracted to her in the past but he was finding at the moment that her beauty was very becoming now in the same way memories appear better than they may have been. But then a very worried Slayer appeared in the door.

"I can't wake Willow up. Giles, I moved her to the bed in the guest room but I don't know what to do."

"Oh!" He was startled from his thoughts. "Let me go take a look at her."

Dierdre followed along with no other options she could see. Where she'd come from would simply have to wait until they could manage to get her back. Giles moved into the bedroom to look at Willow who appeared peaceful enough. The only problem was that she was comatose. He frowned, checking her pupils and her pulse and watching her breath. Rudimentary aspects of healing he knew. Beyond that he was arsed. Buffy fretted near him as he sighed, coming to realize there was nothing he could do.

"Whatever it was that brought Deirdre in the flesh must have cost more than simply summoning her. Willow, I knew she was weakened from what she did in Sunnydale but I didn't know about this. I wish I knew what went wrong. I should consult my books."

Xander appeared in the doorway, looking strained.

"I guess no one noticed. Faith's missing."