Gather Them

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me and never have.

Epilogue to Sleeper and prequel to Bring On The Night (Season 7).

"It's started. Gather them."

So saying, the old Watcher slumped over.

Giles reached out to him when he heard squeaks behind him. Carefully reaching for the dagger in his pocket, he spun round and tripped one of the Bringers onto his back. He plunged the dagger into the other Bringer before he had a chance to react. He snapped the neck of the first before checking the rest of the house. Fortunately, no one else was at home.

In the study however, he found several thick folders clearly from the Council libraries. It was nothing though, to the connected tiles showing the history of the Slayer. The object was sacred and was usually stored in one of the Council vaults. It was normally kept in immaculate condition, but as Giles reached for it, it gave off the stench of Dark magic. Something had tampered with it.

Nervously he studied the tiles. He had only ever seen it twice – once upon graduating Watcher training, and again before being sent to Sunnydale and to Buffy. It detailed not the Slayers themselves – that would be ridiculous – but the lines of influence and potential apocalypses were on there.

To Giles' horror, the edge of the last tile had been burnt and there was no way to add any more tiles to the line. What he did manage to decipher however, was that all lines of influence pointed straight to an apocalypse on a Hellmouth.

Sunnydale.

Buffy.

BtVS BtVS BtVS BtVS BtVS BtVS

As Giles read through more of his friend's notes, the more agitated he became. It appeared someone was attacking the Slayer line itself, although he wasn't sure who. One thing was certain though; he had to get those threatened to safety. Searching through his friend's house, he picked up the files, the tiles and his address book as well as a few items the police shouldn't query before disappearing into the night.

He booked into a hotel, paid in cash, used a fake name and set up some early alarm wards to provide time to escape. Using the hotel phone, he called every Watcher in England to explain the situation.

As luck would have it, his first call was answered by a scared sounding, but also older sounding girl. "Can I speak to Mr Robert Jones please?" Giles asked.

"I'm sorry," the girl on the other end of the line said, "He was – I mean, he died four days ago."

"Oh I'm sorry," Giles said. Then, consulting his notes, he asked, "Are you Kennedy?"

"Who wants to know?" her voice had gone suddenly sharp.

Giles spoke carefully. "I'm the Watcher of the Slayer. I want to protect you. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes," Kennedy said. Then, lowering her voice, she continued, "There were these guys in black cloaks with no eyes. They killed Robert right in front of me. I barely got out alive."

"These people are called the Bringers. Did they follow you?"

"I didn't give them the chance." Kennedy sounded pleased at the other end. "I've been training to be a slayer for years, although it was a tough one."

"Kennedy, the Slayer can and will protect you. I want you to pack a bag and I'll pick you up tomorrow. If your parents or guardian asks, tell them its witness protection or something. It will only be half a lie. In the meantime, keep a stake, a cross and some Holy Water with you."

"Yes sir. How long will we be gone?"

"I don't know. Bring money and your passport too. The Slayer lives in America."

"America! OK. And what is your name sir?"

"I'm called Rupert Giles. Robert has or had a picture of me somewhere. Check it before you leave with me tomorrow, for your own security. Goodnight Kennedy."

With that he put the phone down, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. This would be a mammoth undertaking. He needed help. On impulse, he dialled eight retired Watchers from all over the world and asked them to start calling Watchers in their area to tell them to send their trainees to Sunnydale.

Most were initially sceptical. Well, six were. The other two had already been killed and (he suspected) presumably already believed the danger. However, after he had told them about the tiles and the Council Headquarters they all agreed.

Giles sighed. He suspected it would be a long time before he slept soundly again but it was too late to worry about that. He picked up the phone and called his friend Sally Donovan. She was training a potential slayer not far from the coven he worked with, and he dropped in from time to time, although he'd never met her trainee. It was simply too painful.

Sally herself answered the phone. "Hello Rupert, how are you?" she asked. She sounded fine and more importantly alive, so he began to explain.

"Sally, what's the name of your potential slayer?" If she was surprised, she didn't show it. "Annabel."

"I need to take Annabel to Buffy. To the Slayer."

"Why?"

"She's in danger. There are Bringers coming for her. Potentials and their Watchers are being killed."

"What about me?"

"I don't think you're a threat without your slayer. You should be safe. Tell Annabel to pack a bag, bring money and her passport and for goodness' sake don't tell her how serious this is."

"You haven't told me how serious this is, Rupert. Care to enlighten me?"

"I've seen the tiles. The Slayer line is at stake. The Council is gone."

"My God. I'll get her ready, Rupert. We can meet you tomorrow."

He gave her the address of a cafe near Kennedy's home and told her to speak to as many Watchers as subtly as possible. He also gave her Buffy's address to memorise and warned her not to write it down.

Finally, as his last act for the night, he phoned the former head of the Council who was looking after three trainees until new Watchers were found for them. She would understand the seriousness of the situation and prepare the girls immediately.

When her son answered, he was kind but short. Yes he knew what his mother really did and who the girls were, but it didn't matter. They had all been brutally murdered a week ago. Giles apologised, offered his condolences and hung up. Then, resolving to get as much sleep as possible, he turned out the light and closed his eyes.

The next day he turned up at Kennedy's address and rang the bell. Kennedy evidently came from wealth, it was a huge house attached to several acres.

A young woman answered the door. Giles estimated her age at a few years younger than Buffy; surely too old to be a potential Slayer?

"Kennedy?" he asked.

She pulled out a knife and growled at him. "Who's asking?"

Calmly, he looked her straight in the eyes and said, "My name is Rupert Giles. I am a Watcher. One of the weapons I have in my bag is a wooden stake. I called you last night."

She relaxed slightly and lowered the knife. He continued, "Kennedy, we are going to meet another like you in a local cafe before we fly out. She will be escorted by her Watcher who can verify my identity. If you still aren't sure after that, you can make your way to the Slayer yourself."

She studied him for a moment, and then smiled. "No, I believe you. You talk like Robert used to." A look of sadness crossed her features, then she ushered him inside, where he spent a few minutes lying to her parents before departing with her to the cafe.

Upon walking in he was greeted by Sally and she was accompanied by not one but two girls.

"Sorry about this Rupert," Sally said, leading him out of hearing range, "but when I called round the Watchers last night, this girl Vi picked up and the Bringers had literally just slaughtered her Watcher. She was in hiding with her Watcher's mobile. I raced over, got her sorted out and packed up and brought her and Annabel straight over. We're pretty sure the Bringers are following us but they won't make a move until tonight."

"What about you?" Giles asked concernedly.

For a moment Sally's facade slipped, showing her true feelings. "I can't go home Rupert, and the Bringers are going to find me eventually."

"Come with us then!" Giles thought for a solution.

"No Rupert. I've thought about it and I will stay here and try and get as many Potentials to Sunnydale as possible. It's the Potentials that need to survive Rupert, not us. Just do me a favour. Don't tell Annabel if I die. Call me once a day on this number." She fished a piece of paper out of her pocket, "and if I don't answer, assume the worst."

Giles looked at her. "You're a good person Sally. The Watcher's Council would be proud."

He hugged her then led the girls out of the room, Annabel turning to catch a last glimpse of her faithful Watcher.

As the plane began its steady flight over the Atlantic, Giles looked at the three girls he had assumed responsibility for and sighed. This wasn't going to be easy and he didn't know if Buffy would forgive him for the burden he was bringing her.

When they got to America, Giles turned his phone on. He had a text.

"Goodbye Rupert."

Sally. He managed to stay silent but something must have shown on his face because Kennedy leaned over and said quietly, "No one likes this, but we're all really grateful you did this. You saved us."

And for now, he had.

FIN