Erinne woke too early; her sleep schedule was all screwed up now. Her head felt light, she felt languid, removed from all her fear; all the disappointment she had for herself was under a blanket somewhere, as though it hadn't woken up yet, and she was comfortably insulated. She held the blanket around her as she stood at the window, gazing at the surreal green of the front lawn. It was raining again, or, as Ann would say, STILL...it was what they called a "soft day" here, a day that was all dampness. A kind of mist sifted down relentlessly and seemed to be blooming up from the ground at the same time. It was like walking through a sponge, if you were used to California. Even San Francisco never got this wet. She loved it, even as she drew the blanket closer to ward off the ever-present chill. She remembered being five, staring out the window at this same kind of day from her safe perch on her father's lap. He liked these days, too, because the cloud cover gave him the safety to see colors in daytime, the jewel-green of the grass, the gray-green sea, the colors of town. Erinne had always loved Ireland; she had that same sensation still, that nothing could happen to her here. Her mind argued but her heart knew it.
She went to the dresser and stared at herself in the mirror. Her father loved the fact that she had her mother's eyes. When she was tiny people had gasped with delight and laughed at the sight of her in her mother's arms, saying things like, "She couldn't possibly belong to anyone else!" She had been a miniature replica of her mother, until she had turned twelve. Then her legs had begun to stretch and stretch, her shoulders to widen, her hands to elongate, her hair to darken. Now Erinne was tall and dark with her mother's round, soulful eyes, though Erinne's were deeper in color. The rest of her face now echoed her father's under a tender, feminine softness: she had his level brow, his high cheekbones and sharp jaw line, his fine-edged nose. She was long-boned and had always been very strong, too strong; growth spurts at every turn had been accompanied by disasters in the form of broken toys, broken baseball bats, swing sets bent like straws and golf balls sailing through the windows of offices several blocks away from the course. She had learned, she had grown first meticulously gentle and then graceful, but the fear lingered on her. She still feared using herself completely, stretching her ability, knowing herself. Holding back had always been so imperative that she had grown accustomed to the strain of it; she had a slight hunch in her walk that annoyed her mother. Erinne curled her lip whenever her mother would ask her to "walk tall". Her mother could straighten up without fear of breaking anything. Both her sisters had the same innate strength, although it had been different for them. Ann had very little concern for other people's opinions in general, she wasn't self-conscious about it, and Joy's physical strength, though well above average, was exceeded by her other talents. They had both had it easier than Erinne.
She brushed her wavy dark hair and braided it; it hung down her back, but small wisps escaped here and there. Humidity, a little taste of home.
She was ravenous, suddenly. She wanted a nice hot breakfast. And lots of tea.
She wandered down the staircase in her felt slippers. She found Johnny in the kitchen with books piled around him at the table.
"Good morning," she said.
He jumped. "Oh! Hullo, sleepy!" he was on his feet then, crushing her in a hug. "Where were you last night? Did you eat? You'll get Hell-all from Glennie if she finds out you didn't eat for an entire day. Are you all right?" He held her at arm's length and his eyes darted over her. He read her flawlessly, always had. "Nothing, eh?"
"We'll find them, dear. I'm doing a little research of my own. It'll be all right,"
Erinne turned and lowered her chin at him with a gaze of bleak knowing, and he pressed his lips together. He'd seen it, what she really knew, how she really felt.
"Sit down, dear," he said softly, "I'll get you some breakfast,"
"I'm going to take another angle," she said, "I have to find the Harbingers anyway, that's what I should have done last night,"
"No one can do two things at once,"
Erinne's eyes darkened. "My mother could have,"
Johnny whirled from the counter, where he had poured her a cup of tea. Fragrant amber sloshed over the edges of the cup.
"Your mother wouldn't be having to fight alone, like you are," he said, almost sternly, "You're only one person, sweetheart," he dabbed at the cup with a towel and set it before her on the table. He sat beside her. She gazed at her cousin, who was also her father's descendant. He had the same deep-set eyes, the same knife-edged nose, the same firm set of mouth her father had. Of course he was older. It suddenly occurred to Erinne that she wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of her father aging; it was comforting that he stayed so the same. And if he did begin to age, that would mean the demon was gone. Would he be changed, then? Would he still be himself? His soul had been balanced by the presence of the demon for over a century. She gazed at the friendly crow's feet framing her uncle's eyes and realized that she hadn't put it to her own mind, how she might feel about her father's impending mortality. She didn't like it. She sipped her tea and summoned a smile for Johnny.
"I could use your help,"
"I'll look about. Will you go to town today?"
"Yeah," she stared into her tea. "I need to check out the University Library," then it struck her so strongly that she blurted the thought out loud, "God, I miss my sisters,"
"Siblings at a distance take on a new charm," said Johnny pleasantly.
"And value," she added, "I got used to having that kind of backup,"
Johnny leaned slightly foreward, put his hand on hers. "Are you scared, dear?"
She blinked slowly. The words came without feeling behind them. The deeper recesses of her mind were still wrapped in a kind of fuzz; it was a snug, protected feeling and she knew it wouldn't last. The feeling would hit, eventually.
"I wouldn't say scared, Johnny. I'd say paralyzed,"
Giles was certain that his legs would never move again. Bloody well should have taken first class, why had he been so cheap? He shifted himself for perhaps the hundredth time, grunting. The bespectacled lady in the seat beside his glared at him again. She had been knitting for the entire eight hours, and he genuinely wished her arthritis.
The stewardess brought him another brandy. Cheap, awful stuff. When they landed the first order of business was to get a decent drink. He'd go right from Heathrow to the nearest real pub.
He unfolded the sheaf of paper and thumbed through it again. Everything was in order, but as to how the actual presentation would go...well, better not to worry about that now. Sodding narrow-minded gits, the lot. As head of the American Chapter of the Council, he would be treated like a relative from Tennessee, an inbred one at that. He would find some way to make them listen.
He smiled to himself, his heart warming. He thought of her, child of his heart, destroyer of council policy. It had been overdue, anyway. Council policy was antiquated before Buffy. Since Buffy, all the rules had by necessity been re-written, and it had been done with great reluctance, delay, and resentment. Especially now, they would not be happy to see him. He grinned and took a swallow of deplorable brandy, then his heart sank again. He would be of some use to Erinne, somehow. He told himself that he had all the confidence in the world, he knew Buffy, he knew Angel, he knew the girls, nothing could possibly happen to them. Everything would be all right. It would be fine. Not to worry.
His hand rose, holding an empty plastic cup.