Getting Simon to give us some time to go to Sunnydale was remarkably easy. As soon as I explained to him about my father's unexpected visit he told us to work until Friday, clear our pending cases and then take the following week off. He even volunteered to reschedule other detectives so that we could get two consecutive weekends, and so almost before I could realize what was happening I found myself sitting on a flight to LA with Jim by my side. I have to admit that I am nervous. Meeting my father for the first time was a huge surprise, but because it was a surprise I didn't really have the time to give it much thought. Even though it has been less than a week since that visit, things are completely different now. Everything is so confusing and I don't even know what am I supposed to call him. Calling him father or dad sounds just too strange, Mr. Giles is way too formal and there's no way I'm calling him Rupert. Maybe I'll settle for calling him Giles, it seems like everyone else does.
That's the other thing I'm nervous about. I'm usually pretty confident when it comes to meeting new people but this time I'm afraid. For all intents and purposes the people we are about to meet this week are my father's family... maybe not by blood but I could hear it in his voice whenever he mentioned them. They are his children and that means they are my siblings. That may be a positive change, from what he told us their ages range from fourteen to twenty, with the exception of Anya and Spike whom he merely described as 'older'... so maybe for once I'll get to be the protector rather than the protectee. I'm looking forward to that. Really, after all these years Simon and the others should have gotten tired of calling me 'kid' but it doesn't look like that's going to happen in this lifetime so I may as well take advantage of this opportunity.
Giles meets us at the airport... and in spite of my best efforts calling him that still sounds off somehow. We had intended to rent a car and drive ourselves out to Sunnydale but he insisted on meeting us in LA. I can see that he is worried about something, and while he does admit that he hasn't told 'the children' about me --that he didn't know how-- I know that's only part of the truth, not the whole truth. There is something else but I am sure he doesn't mean us any harm... if anything I suspect he may be trying to protect us. From what, I don't know.
As we approach Sunnydale I start feeling somewhat on edge. There's something in the air and I don't like it. I may be a detective but this is one idyllic little town in which I wouldn't want to find myself outdoors after dark. I turn to Jim and I realize that he senses it too. I try to define just what it is that I'm feeling, to identify it, but I can't. If I had to use a word to describe it, it would probably be 'evil'. I notice Giles is watching us and I realize that whatever it is we are feeling it is somehow connected to those secrets I know he is keeping.
When we finally arrive in Sunnydale Giles takes us straight to the magic shop. I'm curious about that place if only because it seems like such a contradiction that he would own it. It's an interesting place, pleasant and I'm surprised by the number of books I can see on the shelves. He said he used to be a librarian but it seems like when he switched jobs he took his whole library with him. I notice six young people sitting at a table, and my father doesn't seem particularly surprised to see that 'his children' are all waiting for us there, well, except for Spike who they say will drop by later.
I had been thinking about my father's young friends for hours, but nothing could have prepared me for what I see when I first meet them. They are nothing like I had expected them to be. Their bodies may be young but their eyes are not, even though they are good at hiding it. They have the eyes of people who have seen and done too much and it saddens me. They almost remind me of some veteran cops who have seen more than their share of carnage... I've noticed that there is a difference between the eyes of cops and the eyes of soldiers. It's subtle but it's there. Soldiers are used to large scale massacres, but because of their scope those tend to be somewhat numbing... impersonal. The horrors we confront as detectives are different, more personal and insidious. Our victims have names, families, stories and it is our duty to comb through that information to find a reason, an explanation that can possibly lead us to the one responsible... and so we lie to ourselves about checking our humanity at the door. For a soldier a corpse is a corpse, for a cop it must remain a person to a certain degree. That taint --that sorrow-- I've seen in the eyes of so many of my colleagues is a look that does not belong in the faces of children, and yet I can see it in all of them.
But in spite of what I can see in all of their eyes it's what I see when I look at the youngest girl, Dawn, that takes my breath away. I close my eyes for a moment, almost sure that they are playing tricks on me but when I open them again the illusion is still there, still real. She looks and sounds like any other fourteen year old girl I've ever met, maybe even worse than some, but there is something about her, an otherworldly green glow that seems to surround it... no... not it, her. She's a girl and yet a part of me knows she's not. She's something else, different and incredibly ancient. I can feel it. I'm surprised Jim hasn't said anything about it. I mention it, sentinel soft, and before I know it I am pinned against the wall. I realize with a growing sense of deja-vu that I'm being dangled a couple of inches above the ground and I find myself looking into Buffy's furious eyes.