Greater Good Part 10/27: A Strange Bond
The dark streets were bare, absent of any pedestrians or cars as the gang of Potentials rounded the last corner leading to the south end of town. They paused with wonder as they reached the intersection of First and Yorkshire. For all intensive purposes, Sunnydale was a ghost town. Not one light remained lit within the abandoned shops lining either side of the street. The young ladies went nervously quiet, marching uneasily down the sidewalk as they inspected the unlit shops. The scene couldn't have felt more like an old western showdown, with the exception of an unlikely tumbleweed crossing their paths as an unlucky omen.
Giles kept an eye on his master of the moment, amazed at how courageous she seemed as she strode determindly out into the center of the road to get a clearer path of travel. Dawn was as much of a fighter as her sister... as her mother. He felt the welcome ache of Joyce's memory. What an amazing woman, to raise a Slayer and stay alive as long as she had managed was an astonishing feat. Slayer's families were often the first casualties; something Giles unfortunately understood all too well. But Dawn continued on, defying anyone's expectations; she was as much a genuine champion as her sister.
"Move it along already." Spike strutted from around a corner and waved the gang on. "We don't want to be caught off guard here."
"Where's Buffy?" Xander asked and saw Spike noticeably upset that Dawn was in control of the vampiric Watcher.
"Just 'round the bend. Should she be... um, handling him?" Spike didn't want Buffy seeing such obvious insolence for her orders. Giles wouldn't have a chance if she saw that.
"She didn't really give us a choice," Willow explained. "Besides, Dawn seems to be doing just fine."
Spike hurried over to Dawn and went for the chain. She stepped back, protectively securing her custody of Giles' leash.
"Don't!" Giles rumbled low and menacingly.
"I'm trying to save your ass! Buffy will dust you if she sees you with Lil' bit." Spike reached for the chains again and Giles stormed forward to block his advance.
"She's fine," Giles growled. "Go keep an eye on the others."
"That's your job. You're the bloody Watcher," Spike huffed. "Don't you get it? Buffy doesn't want you near Dawn. I know you've got a death wish but I'm not lettin' you get all staked for playin' pet vamp for niblit. Just hand over the leash before Buffy shows."
"Before Buffy shows what?" The Slayer made an acrobatic entrance, vaulting off the rooftop of a single story building and landing gracefully at the curb.
"I tried to stop them." Spike stepped back, defending his weak attempt to regain control.
"Stop what?" Buffy glanced over and saw Dawn standing along side Giles with a chain joining the two. Spike immediately felt the need to intercede.
"He's locked up, luv. Can't hurt a fly."
"Actually, Mr. Giles is just as deadly without the use of his...."
"SHUT UP!" The Scoobies chorused to Andrew who seemed to shrink into himself. He was only trying to be a part of the gang.
After a short inspection of her young sister's rebellious demeanor, Buffy smiled slightly and asked, "Enjoying yourself?" Seemingly indifferent to the strange scenario.
Dawn nodded, confused at her sister's curious question. She tentatively took up some slack of the chain. Giles' observed the odd exchange. It hadn't been the reaction he'd expected from Buffy but it was encouraging to see she wasn't ready to dust him over an innocent situation. Maybe she recognized the subtle empowerment the control gave Dawn. Maybe Buffy planned on punishing him later. In any case, Giles would remain subservient to Dawn for the time being.
"Right... well then," Spike seemed relived at the lack of anger from the Slayer. "Beasties should be making their way here at any moment. Buffy, Giles and I will handle the..."
"He'll watch Dawn and the girls," Buffy stepped out into the street to take note of the layout.
"Buffy, we might need a little help. Bringers and uber vamps are coming this way. Let's not risk anything," Spike urged.
"He will watch Dawn and the girls," she said again, making sure he recognized the decision had been made. "Willow, Xander, Anya and Andrew will watch him. Faith will help us."
"Fine." Spike shrugged it off and lit up a cigarette. "Time to put your game face on, Rupert." He stared expectantly at the Giles. But the Watcher was lost in thought, staring at the unaware Slayer, absorbed with her. It made Spike angry. "Come on. Let's give the Little Red Riding Hoods a taste of the Big Bad Wolf. After all, they should know what they're getting into." Giles continued to disregard the order, watching Buffy mentally map out the block and Spike grew more agitated.
All eyes were on the preoccupied Watcher as Spike approached with a clenched fist. After a quick assessment of the fellow vampire, Spike snapped his fingers inches from Giles face, bringing his attentions back to him.
"Enough daydreaming," Spike barked. "Make with Mr. Hyde so we can get this out of the way and move on to more pressing business."
"Not going to happen." Giles stood resolved before the captive audience, unwilling to fulfill his sire's request or offer any explanation for his refusal. There was no need for him to show that face to them. It would only make things worse than they already were. Dawn looked worried and he gave her a subtle shake of his head, dissuading any fears he would ever show that side of himself.
"Oh please... still in denial, are we? They'll be seeing it soon
enough, old man. Just thought you'd give them a chance to get used to it,
is all." Spike puffed a few eager clouds of smoke and waved a dismissive
hand toward the willful vampire.
"Tough crowd." Spike chuckled. "Not one for making this easy? Hard way it is." He stepped up to Giles and flashed a coy smile just before he planted a powerful upper cut to the Watcher's chin. The unexpected blow sent Giles stumbling back toward the Potentials. He tried to catch himself but was tripped up by his binds. Andrew found himself suddenly sandwiched between Giles and a brick wall as the confused crowd watched on. The girls scattered apart, unsure of what to do as Dawn rushed forward to stop Spike's unprovoked attack. Spike ignored her, strutting past her to get to the fallen Watcher. Giles worked to get to his feet but was quickly levelled by another hammering blow. Dawn went to check on Andrew who slipped to the sidewalk with a dazed expression. Xander rushed Spike and took a wild swing that the vampire easily avoided.
"No beef with you. Just trying to get a rise outta the old man," Spike explained and pushed Xander away. "This doesn't involve you."
"If it involves Giles, it involves me!" Xander moved in again and was stopped by Buffy.
"And this is helping, how?" Buffy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, seeming only slightly put off by the senseless attack.
"Come on, now," Spike smiled. "Show us the goods, Ripper. You know you wanna."
"Don't do this." Giles felt his anger seizing control and struggled to restrain himself. As Spike's fist connected again, his rage swelled, threatening to boil over. "Please..." he mumbled as another blow silenced his plea and encouraged his fury.
"What'd the fuck I miss?" Faith came rushing up out of nowhere. "What gives?"
"Spike, leave him alone." Buffy ordered and held Xander back from another rush.
"Give us a peek, then," Spike taunted Giles, landing another punch.
"Spike, stop tenderizing the help!"
When the knee struck hard at his abdomen, Giles couldn't contain his rage any longer.
Spike pulled back for another punch and Dawn blocked his path, standing protectively in front of the hunched over Watcher to prevent the bullying vampire's assault. She glanced back to make sure Giles was all right and was frozen with fear. A horrified gasp fell past her lips and she was petrified by the haunting face of her sadistic assailant staring up, yellowish eyes blazing furiously at the Spike.
"Come out to play after all?" Spike chuckled with satisfaction. "Knew you couldn't resist."
Giles bolted upright, snarling threateningly at Spike who seemed much too pleased with his accomplishment. That's when Giles heard the disconcerted mumbles from the girls. He glanced over to see the Potentials grimace with shock at the sight of him, the exposure of his demon taking them all by surprise. But it was when he saw the panicked look in Dawn's eyes that Giles understood just how hideous he was. He gently extended his hands, wanting to console her but the once courageous girl scampered desperately over to Buffy, seeking protection from him. The chains she'd been so possessive of fell discarded and rattling to the pavement, and Giles winced at the aching sound of desertion ringing in his ears.
Buffy's expression remained calm and distant, watching him as Dawn retreated behind her. Giles knew he'd done exactly what the Slayer had expected and was instantly ashamed of permitting Spike to rouse the monster from him. But his disgrace paled in comparison to the uncontainable rage that dominated him in that instant and he craved nothing less than retribution. He longed to punish Spike.
"That is who you are now, Giles. You are a vampire. Deal with it," Spike said simply and looked over at the Potentials. "Don't just stand there," Spike ordered the girls as his face changed to the vampire he usually masked. "Get your weapons. We already have."
Faith sneaked stealthily up to Giles, unnoticed by Spike, and pulled out a small set of keys. She worked to unlock the handcuffs as Giles glared feverishly at vampire barking out orders. The restraints clicked open and Faith gave Giles a playful nudge. The demon Watcher snarled, unaware of his sudden freedom and waited for an explanation of her intrusion. His radiant eyes finally fell the handcuffs twirling playfully on the end of the dark Slayer's finger.
"I'll save these for later," she winked naughtily at Giles. "Go get em, G!"
Giles charged Spike, driven by his wrath, moving so quickly that the ripple of breeze caused by his rush brushed Spike's face only after Giles had grasped his shoulders and pinned him against the metal grate of a deserted storefront.
"Is this what you wanted?" Giles snarled furiously as he slammed the back of Spike's head into the gate and gripped the vampire's collar. "Satisfied with your work?" With the second taunt, Giles thrust his knee up into Spike's midsection and followed it with an elbow to the back of the stooping vampire's neck. "You want me to deal with it? Deal with this!" Giles stomped down his hard soled boot to the base of Spike's spine, grinning agreeably with the faint snapping he heard.
"So, was that what you were laughing about earlier?" Willow asked as Faith joined her and Xander for the show.
"Bleach boy's not the brightest bulb, huh?" Faith chuckled. "Lifted the keys back at the house. Figure G's got a bit of payback coming."
"You know about Spike, then?" Willow asked curiously.
"Huh... what? Don't know 'bout Spike?" Faith was starting to get annoyed by the conversation, she wanted to watch Giles go at Buffy's fang boy. "Let's just say I can relate to the song Giles is singing."
Xander and Willow shared a confused glance at the comment.
"Handy little talent you got there," Xander complimented.
"Yep. Little something I picked up while in Stark County Corrections. Sometimes all you have is what you can take from others."
"Well, it was... was nice. In a deviant, morally delinquent kinda way," Xander offered a smile and his attentions were drawn back to the fight.
Faith ignored the compliment, shutting out the distraction of conversation. She was busy taking in the beauty of the unfolding drama. A wave of adrenalin washed through her as she watched Giles beat Spike down. She could see the exhilaration on the vampire's face, smell his passion for the action. It was something she knew well, the thrill of battle. But to be witness to a normally reserved man like Giles finally letting go as he savagely tore into the clueless vampire, it was hot. Faith was drawn in by Giles' intensity and couldn't help but let her mind wander as she looked on, mesmerized.
"We don't have time for this," Spike wheezed and tried to get to his feet. He never made it. Giles landed a devastating upper cut that sent Spike flying past the Scoobies, crashing through the window of the accompanying hardware store.
"Shouldn't we stop this?" Anya asked Buffy who shrugged off the question and smiled with pleased recognition of the unblocked entrance to the store. Spike tumbled back out through the cracked and splintered glass, falling flat on his face in the middle of the road as Buffy peeked curiously into the dark shop.
"Hey, free for all at the local goodies shop." Buffy crunched through the shattered glass of the sidewalk and disappeared within the depths of the abandoned store. Xander's eyes darted between Willow and Anya, bewildered by his friend's actions.
"The Buffster seems a bit distracted by the pretty hardware store," Xander shrugged. "And I'm not getting in-between those two." Besides, he was enjoying the show, watching Spike being pitilessly pummeled by a very deserving Giles was just the breath of fresh air he needed.
"God, look at him go," Faith mumbled with a gratified smile.
Spike gradually lifted himself up from the road, leveraging his elbows under him just as his gut was battered by a powerful kick thrusting him further off the ground. He managed to plant his feet under him as he landed and finally took a defensive stance. Giles swiped at him with a wide punch and Spike blocked in time to counter with an uppercut of his own. Giles stumbled back; much to the disapproving hisses of the crowd and Spike cocked a bothered brow at the negative reception. Were those selfish brats actually rooting for the old man?
"This isn't the time to settle differences."
"Revenge is never convenient," Giles sneered at Spike's feeble attempt to discontinue the fight. The vampire rushed forward, ignoring Spike's pleas for reason. GHe heaved a few wild punches that Spike easily outmaneuvered and then went on the offensive, attacking with a succession of kicks. Giles expertly blocked each strike with alternating forearms and telegraphed Spike's final kick, catching his leg and holding it as a wicked grin played along his lips.
"Are we having fun yet?" He swung the hapless vampire around, sending him crashing through another retail store window. There was a restrained rumble of cheers from the audience and it fueled his antagonism for Spike. The young faces of the enthusiastic crowd lit up with awareness of what opportunity was just given to them. Sunnydale Sweets and Chocolate was open for business, or for looting anyway, and the girls didn't waste any time rushing into the shop as Spike spilled clumsily back out into the street.
Dawn remained behind, disturbed by the scene, standing just outside the hardware store and keeping a watchful eye on the ensuing battle of the vampires going on in front of her.
"How 'bout the sporting goods store?" Xander snickered as Giles stormed forward after Spike, not giving the vampire a moments rest as he landed a few quick but precise jabs. Spike tried to block and punch, managing a few weak blows as he shuffled back to avoid the onslaught being returned to him.
"Hey G, I could use a crossbow or a shiny new hunters knife!" Faith agreed, mirroring miniature strikes of her own at each hit Giles landed, as if willing him on. Spike tried to block and Giles countered with a surprise left that sent him shattering the sporting goods storefront window.
"I could use a few software upgrades myself," Willow felt weird joining in on the game but didn't know what else to do. It seemed somehow appropriate. Willow caught a glimpse of Dawn's distraught expression and she went over to her, keeping watch of the raging battle.
"It's still him, Dawn," she urged with a creasing brow. "It's still Giles." Dawn just stared forward, watching the vicious fight with rising apprehension. Buffy returned outside with her arms full of various items, double sided axes, a sledgehammer, machetes, and a bulky nail gun. Xander excitedly rushed to her and took the nail gun as his weapon of choice.
"Wow, a combustion nailer. This could be useful." Xander noticed the snickering reaction of his friends and shrugged. "I'm a tool junkie."
"Hey, you know how to use it, that's of the good. Pass these around," Buffy handed off the other tools and noticed Dawn completely engrossed by the vampire brawl. Willow, Xander and Anya rushed over to the candy shop to hand out the new weapons to the sugar-filled and now wired Potentials.
"Dawn, you ok?" She didn't answer and Buffy took a moment to watch the clash of the titans laying waste to the small block of shops. Giles was mercilessly ripping into Spike, scratching wildly at him as the blonde vampire tumbled towards the center of the road again. She considered the notion of letting the two demons obliterate each other, leaving the two Slayers to fend off the forces of the First. But Spike was right, she could use the help and the expendable strength both presented. Buffy wrapped her arm around Dawn and pointed to the irritating combatants.
"I won't let him hurt you," Buffy said confidently. Dawn broke from her daze and shot Buffy an intense glare, swiping her sister's arm off her shoulders. She followed it up with a very familiar offensive gesture that took Buffy by surprise and Dawn ran out to stop the fight.
Giles was caught off guard by a swift jab to his midsection and swung around to counter with an elbow. He stopped cold, mere centimeters from connecting with Dawn. She stood her ground, not showing any concern for herself, determined to end the hostilities. Giles' anger washed away at the sight of her. Such a brave young lady. He felt his demonic visage morph back to his more acceptable appearance and smiled.
"As you wish," Giles stood down, willing to temporarily concede the battle a draw.
"Had enough then?" Spike spit out a bloody tooth to the cracked pavement and chuckled as he straightened up to stretch out his tired muscles. "Not bad, Rupert. I can always do with a bit of a warm up."
The slight breeze caught the vampire's attentions and Giles and Spike suddenly went quiet, remaining motionless as their concentrated stares scanned the darkened streets and alleys.
Spike glanced over at Giles. "You smell..."
"Yes... about three blocks north," Giles nodded, listening carefully for the approaching strangers.
Buffy saw the serious expressions of the feuding vampires and knew they'd caught scent of the local baddies.
"There's more than I thought," Spike whispered.
"Hard to tell. But I think we're outnumbered," Giles glanced over at Buffy who acknowledged him with a nod.
"Get the girls." She motioned to Faith who immediately hurried off to gather up the potentials. "Dawn, you, Willow, Anya, and Xander take shelter inside the hardware store with the others. Don't come out unless I call you. Got it?" Dawn hesitantly agreed, gesturing with a slight nod. The group fell in line, retreating into the darkness hardware store as the Potentials followed.
"Spike, I want you hiding in the shadows. I'll call you when I need you."
"I'm not leaving you alone." Spike refused to budge.
"Just do it ans wait for my order," Buffy gave him a shove towards the alley. "I want to surprise them. Go!"
Spike glanced over at Giles who offered a gentle nod of reassurance. The vampire ran off into the shadows leaving Giles and Buffy standing alone together in the center of the empty street. They scanned the streets for any sign of the approaching trouble. Nothing yet.
"And me?" Giles asked softly, glancing down and dutifully awaiting her command. "What do you want..."
"Protect the Potentials. No matter what happens, keep them alive."
"Buffy, are you sure you can..."
"Giles, don't." She paused, appalled that she'd slipped and called him by that name. How quickly she'd forgotten that the demon wasn't Giles and would never be Giles. But as she looked over at the genuinely concerned gaze of the man standing at her side, she wanted it to be him. She wanted it to be Giles. "Watch over the them. Protect them."
"To my last breath." Giles nodded and she raised a questioning brow.
"But you don't breathe." Buffy corrected with the slightest hint of a smile curling the edge of her lips.
"Um... right. You know what I meant.," He recognized the echo of the friendship they once shared in her faint smile. "If you need me..."
"I won't." She turned her back to him and marched a few paces away. And like that, the brief sparkle of camaraderie was gone. But Giles understood and would accept anything she'd offer to him, even if her words stung worse than the purifying sunlight he attempted to accept just days before. He kept a remorseful eye on her as he moved to take up his post protecting the future Slayers.
A small gang of Bringers marched from around an intersection two blocks from Buffy and Giles immediately felt something was off. His gut churned nervously as four uber vamps rounded the same corner and weaved eagerly back and forth along the road as they made their way toward the solitary Slayer.
"I recognize the steroid vamps and the eyeless wonders..." Kennedy whispered to the uneasy Watcher. "But who the hell is the preacher guy?"