Aurelia, Cordelia, Willow, and Oz were sitting at the library table doing their homework. Xander was in Giles' office trying to find a book he needed. While he was searching through the bookcase, the phone rang. "It's probably Giles calling to complain about one of the girls being a nuisance." Xander called, picking up the phone. "Hello?" Aurelia stood up and walked into the office. "Hey, do we know some British guy named Robson?"
Aurelia took the phone. "Hello, this is Buffy. Giles is my Watcher. May I help you?" As she listened to the man Robson, Willow and Oz joined them in the office. "Thank you." Aurelia hung up."What's up?" Willow asked.
"Giles…. He was attacked."
"What? When?" Cordelia asked.
"He was in England stealing from the Council and this Robson man…. Giles was there helping him. There was a Bringer. Robson blacked out, but the last thing he remembers is Giles's head about to get…. Taken off by a Bringer's axe."
"Oh, my God!" Willow cried.
"Giles never mentioned any of this." Oz said.
"Robson said by the time he came to, there was no Giles." Aurelia said.
"So, what are we saying?" Xander asked.
"Maybe Giles just didn't want to talk about it."
"Or maybe he didn't make it." Oz said. They all looked at him. "We're dealing with a big bad that can be any dead person it wants."
"Because if you want to infiltrate the inner circle of the Slayer…." Xander said.
"Become the one person she trusts more than anybody else." Willow said.
"We can't know that." Aurelia said, shaking her head.
"The First can't take corporeal form, so it can't touch anything, right?" Cordelia said.
Aurelia sighed. "Giles has touched plenty of things…. Right?" Everyone was silent. "Oh, come on! Really?"
"Has anyone seen Giles touch anything since he got back?" Xander asked. "Hold anything? Has anybody hugged him? Think very hard." Everyone thought long and hard, but no one could think of a time Giles had made contact with anything. Xander turned and headed out the door.
"Wait. Where are you going?" Cordelia asked.
"To Aurelia's house."
"You have no proof, Xander." Aurelia said, stopping him.
"And you don't either. So, we need to go find out. Now."
"Cassius is with the girls. We can call him and…."
"I don't trust him. He's been manipulated by the First before. If it's pretending to be Giles, it could easily manipulate him again."
"Let's go." Cordelia said, making tracks for the doors.
Willow looked at Aurelia. "I'm staying here."
"I am as well." Aurelia said. "Giles is not the First. I would have sensed it."
"Like you sensed Eve was the First?" Xander shot back.
"Low blow, Xander." Oz said.
Xander shook his head and walked out, Cordelia following closely on his heels.
"It was, uh, extraordinary good luck, of course." Giles was saying as he went through his books in his office. He had shown up a few moments after Xander and Cordelia had left. Aurelia had told him all about Xander's theory and he'd laughed and given Aurelia a hug, thereby proving he was not the First. He also had Chao-Ahn in tow with him. She was standing in the corner behind Giles watching everything. "And…. and, uh, training…. Years of training." Giles stood up and walked out into the main area where Willow and Oz were. "Chao-Ahn, keep up. You're new here, Chao-Ahn, so take note. Remember about training." He turned back to Aurelia. "But I honestly feel the largest part of it was instinct. Instinct and-and reflexes. There's a sort of wary watchfulness I've developed over the years. It's like another sense…."
From out of nowhere, someone attacked Giles, knocking him to the ground. It was Cassius. Aurelia yelled his name, pulling him off of Giles. "What is wrong with you!?"
"Xander and Cordelia said you were the First." Cassius said to Giles. "They said you were evil. You're supposed to be non-corporeal."
"Then what the hell did you tackle me for, you berk?" Giles said, getting to his feet. "What's that supposed to do?"
"I didn't think of that."
Aurelia rolled her eyes. "Where are Xander and Cordelia?"
"Watching the potentials. They sent me after the First."
"I don't know. Because I'm stronger?"
"Yes, you are. But you can't fight the first in a who's-stronger battle."
"I didn't think of that. I was just worried about you."
"I know." Aurelia touched his cheek. "I'm ok. Giles is ok. We're all ok…. For right now." They walked over to the table and sat down. "Giles was just telling us how he survived the attack from the Bringer."
"Oh. Care to retell?"
"Oh, uh…." Giles shook his head. "No. I'll let Aurelia tell you. I'm going to go…. Work on my Mandarin." Giles walked into his office.
Cassius finally noticed Chao-Ahn. "Oh, hi." She just stared at him, not understanding what he said. "New potential?" He asked Aurelia.
"Fresh from China." Aurelia said.
"Wow. Poor girl."
"She'll learn fast." Aurelia said, nodded and smiling at the young Chinese potential.
*********************The next day, Xander stood at the hardware supply store shopping for things to have around if more destruction happened at Aurelia's house or the library. So far, Snyder hadn't noticed the damage in the library. That was probably because he was too busy dealing with more and more students getting into trouble. Xander looked around and noticed a pretty woman looking at the spools of rope on a display. He smiled and walked over to her.
"Hi, can I help?" Xander asked. "You seem kind of confused."
"You aren't wearing a green apron." The woman said.
"Confused, but sort of randomly observant."
"Sorry, I just mean…. you don't work here, right?"
"No. Right. Just helpful. I'm Xander."
"Lissa." They shook hands. "And I guess I could use some advice. I can't even figure out if I've got the right kind of rope."
"That depends on what you need it for. Something like functional around the house, or, you know, recreational. By which I mean, for example, boating or mountain climbing…. not for tying someone up for sexy, funky fun. In conclusion, rope can be useful in various ways."
"I have a kayak."
"Again with the random. I like it."
"Sorry. I need to store my kayak. So I was thinking maybe I could sorta suspend it from the ceiling in the garage with ropes and a pulley or a winch thing."
"Not a bad plan. You'll need stronger rope than that. Wanna have coffee with me later?"
"Oh, you're the only one that gets to be random?"
Lissa laughed. "How old are you?"
"18. I just turned…. A few months ago."
She smiled. "I'd like to have coffee."
Xander smiled brightly. "Awesome. This evening at eight-ish?"
"Eight-ish sounds good. I'll meet you at The Espresso Pump?"
"Sounds good. I'll see you." He grabbed some stronger looking rope. "Oh, here."
"Xander!" Cordelia called. He'd forgotten she'd come with him out of boredom. "Would you stop trying to flirt and come on?"
"That's not my girlfriend." Xander said to Lissa. "She was, but…. She kinda keeps hanging around me."
Lissa laughed. "I'm gonna choose to look at that as a good thing. That you're worth going out with."
"Xander!" Cordelia yelled.
"Yeah." Lissa said. "See you later."
"Later." Xander smiled and walked off to catch up with Cordelia.
"What was that!?" Cordelia asked.
"I got a date."
Cordelia looked back at Lissa. "With her? She's a college girl."
"It's probably a pity thing. Or…. And this one's way more likely…. It's a sorority hazing type thing. She's trying to get in to a sorority and one of her assignments is to date a loser."
"One, I'm not a loser. And two, it's neither of your scenarios. She fell for my Xander charms."
"Yeah, well…. I fell for those once and I ended up impaled with a metal bar. Good luck to her." Cordelia walked away from him in a huff. Xander shook his head and followed.
Aurelia and Willow were folding laundry from the laundry basket between them on the couch that evening while Aurelia talked on the phone to her mother. After school, Xander had gone with Cordelia to get some supplies at the hardware store. Oz and Cassius were in the kitchen making dinner for everyone. Giles was out on a shopping trip for Chao-Ahn. The potentials were all downstairs in the basement training.
"How's your mom?" Willow asked.
"She's doing ok." Aurelia said. "She's with some cousins in Illinois."
"She wants to come back home, but I just can't let her." The front door opened. "Hey, someone's here."
Xander came in through the front door acting very giddy. Cordelia came in behind him with a very annoyed look on her face. "Guys, guess what happened." Xander said.
"Xander got a date." Cordelia said.
"Way to steal my thunder, Cor."
"She's probably a demon."
"She's not a demon."
"Inca mummy girl?"
"No!" Xander sighed. "She's a college girl and we're going for coffee tonight. She has a kayak…."
Giles and Chao-Ahn came through the front door, loaded with overflowing shopping bags. "Dear lord, I hate that mall." Giles said. "The shop assistants are rude. And everything in the Food Court is sticky."
"Looks like you found her some stuff." Willow said.
"Oh, hello. Yes."
"That's gotta be rough." Xander said. "Getting just like pulled out of your home, being told you're a potential slayer, not being able to bring anything."
"Yes, and the language barrier is formidable. I was concerned that my Mandarin is a little thin, but as it turns out, she speaks Cantonese, which is thinner. But we muddled through, and, as I suspected, ice cream is a universal language."
Chao-Ahn said something in Cantonese. Aurelia smiled at her and nodded. "What did she say?"
"She's grateful to be in the land of plenty." Giles turned back to Chao-Ahn. "Let's, um, go and put away your new clothes." They picked up bags and walked upstairs.
"Why couldn't I've had that job?" Cordelia complained, heading upstairs.
"Hey, Xand, Want me to check your girl out on the web?"
"Nope. I'm going in blind. I'm gonna be an optimist about this. Why go looking for trouble? If it's gonna find you, it's gonna find you." He looked at his watch. "Oh, I better go home and get ready."
"Have fun!" Aurelia called as he rushed back out the front door.
********************Xander was sitting alone at a table, staring at the clock on the wall. It read 8:09. He sighed to himself for a moment, then Lissa walked in. "Lissa! Hi." He stood up. "I was afraid you weren't coming."
"You said eight-ish, right?" Lissa smiled. "Did you think I was going to stand you up?"
"Well, it would be kind of karmic."
"Forget it. I'm just glad you're here. You're gonna love the coffee. Got myself a redeye…. it's black coffee with a shot of espresso." Lissa grabbed his mug to inspect it and Xander tried unsuccessfully to stop her. "It's kinda rough if you're not used to that sort of thing…."
She tasted Xander's drink. "It's hot cocoa."
"Well, sometimes I don't sleep too good. I just lost macho points, didn't I?"
"Hey, who wants macho? I like that you like hot cocoa." Lissa looked at the waiter. "Redeye, please." Xander balked and shrugged. "Sounded good."
Cordelia stormed into the dining room holding a stack of papers. Willow and Aurelia were sitting at the table talking with Cassius and Oz. Giles followed closely behind Cordelia saying, "Cordelia, calm down. They're educational…."
"What's this?" Aurelia asked when Cordelia handed her the papers. She flipped through the papers. They were crude stick-figure drawings in black and red marker depicting 'Bringer' on one, 'Vampire' on another, and 'The Slayer' as well. There were more, but Aurelia got the idea. Each one showed a gruesome, bloody mess as the creature shown was drawn killing someone or something.
"Giles made them for Chao-Ahn, and now she's locked herself in the bathroom." Cordelia said. "There's other girls upstairs, and they're starting to complain."
"Those are flashcards." Giles argued. "I-I made them to facilitate her training. Chao-Ahn never had a Watcher. The language problem…."
"You showed her these?" Cassius asked.
"I wanted her to understand the seriousness of her situation."
"Oh my god!" Willow cried, holding up one of the pages. It was labeled 'Turok-Han' and showed the creature standing over a girl that had been ripped in half along her waistline, spilling a huge pool of blood everywhere.
"Perhaps I'll rethink the approach." Giles said.
"In the meanwhile, wanna help us get researchy?" Willow asked. "We're trying to invade Xander's date's privacy."
"Xander has a date?"
"Yeah…. Didn't you hear?" Cordelia said. "Everybody has a date. Except me."
"We don't have dates." Willow said. "We're here."
"Oh please." Cordelia motioned to Oz and Cassius. "Everyone has dates and Xander's out with some hardware-store-whore."
"For God's sake!" Giles cried. "How can anyone think about their social life? We are about to fight the original primal evil. These girls are in mortal danger. Didn't you see the flashcards? This isn't right." He plucked the flashcards out of Aurelia's hands and stormed away.