Greater Good Part 17/27: Ice Cream
Buffy’s pulse drummed out her approval with the light brush of his lips to hers. It was an accident, an unintentional but intimate union of skin to skin, and it was enough to send her heart swooning. But without a single word, Giles was suddenly gone. Buffy had been so consumed by the comfort and gentleness of his touch that it took a moment for her mind to bring her back to reality. Left cold and unmistakably empty with his exit, she wanted to know why he’d disappeared. She opened her eyes just in time to see a large shadow whip past her, extinguishing the sole candle lighting the windowless space. Trapped in total darkness, Buffy’s instincts screamed for her to flee.
“Giles?” Her voice was strained, doubtful if he was still there. Perhaps he’d sent himself away using the majicks. A second later, the rattling of the tunnel gate satisfied any remaining doubts of his presence. “Giles…what’s wrong?” Another brisk rush of chilled basement air stung at Buffy’s neck and she was quickly beginning to panic at the sheer blackness surrounding her. “What’s going on?” barely a squeak, she swallowed down her fears.
“You need to leave,” Giles voice was a savage whisper carrying across from some unseen location in the basement.
“What is it?” Beyond her better judgment, Buffy took a step toward the voice.
“Giles… are you ok?” Another step and Buffy felt a vigorous whoosh of air as he rushed past her in the dark. She heard his heavy footsteps as he stormed up the stairs and slammed against the mystically sealed door. “Don’t bother… Wil’s workin the majicks to keep me down here.”
“You…you must get out… now!” Giles voice grew more forceful with every word.
“They said they’d let me out in a little bit. Probably waitin’ for us to kiss and make up. Hey… segue, while we’re on the subject of kissing…”
“Then we’re trapped?” Giles voice rumbled low, almost growling and Buffy felt even more uneasy at his sudden change in tone.
“Yeah… but they’ll be back… any second now,” she stepped forward a few paces, reaching out blindly to find the candle. “Giles, tell me what’s wrong…” Buffy felt a slight sting of her wounded lip and dabbed at it, tasting the familiar taint of blood in her mouth. It finally struck her what was going on.
“Where’s the stake…” Giles voice was on the move
and Buffy grew more troubled with every sound.
“Use it,” he urged, his jaw tensing with every syllable as his eyes swirled from green to yellow and back again.
“We’ve already covered this,” Buffy tried to return it and Giles refused to take back the weapon. “Last time with the instant replay…no!”
“You must, please.”
“I can’t and you know it!”
The next thing she knew, she was thrust flush up against the brick wall with a powerful forearm pinning her against the cold stone. With a shaken gaze, she looked up at Giles’ face and was welcomed instead by the ferocious eyes of the beast snarling back at her.
“Use the bloody stake, Slayer!” He roared, fangs drooling with the expectation of a meal. Beads of sweat freckled along his deeply crinkled, brooding brow as his blazing yellow eyes darted between her bloodied lip and forehead, finally settling on her distressed gape. Buffy was face to face the monster that had tortured her and Dawn and all she could do was watch with fascination as he fought the urge to sink his fangs into her. With a forced breath, his features softened, retreating back into the mild, handsome face of her Watcher.
“Buffy… I can’t control this… I can’t live like this… please….”
“Not an option!”
“You know Willow’s resolved face? Well, it’s nothin’ next to my Slayer stubbornness! Now let me go, you’re wrinkling my shirt.”
Giles finally lowered his guard, releasing her from his intense grip. She nervously slipped passed him, taking a few anxious steps away and rubbing the tender skin of her neck as she silently thanked the powers that be for Giles’ self control. Though she wanted to trust him, she found it difficult to trust the beast he’d become. He was dangerous in his current condition and she knew something needed to be done. He needed to feed.
A strange metallic clink brought her attention back around to Giles who had voluntarily restrained himself with the chains fastened securely to the wall. He lowered his sickened body down on the bunk, sitting on the edge of the mattress as he looked up at her with a weary gaze.
“You don’t have to go through this,” Buffy stepped closer. “You don’t have to be a prisoner here.”
“I don’t have a choice…” he sighed.
“Yes you do…” Buffy looked around for any stray bags of blood Spike might have left. There were none. “You need to feed Giles.”
“I know what you are… what your capable of. I won’t lie to you, I don’t like it. But I will deal with it,” She said assuredly.
“You shouldn’t have to,” Giles eyes glistened, on the verge of tears in the faint shimmering light. “None of you should. I shouldn’t be, Buffy. It would be best if…”
“I need you,” she whispered it, unable to sound out the raw emotions carried within the simple words. “I can’t do this without you.”
“That’s not true.”
“I’m sorry, Giles.” There, she’d said it and once that difficult phrase had past her lips, she felt as if a weight had been lifted from her.
“Christ…what on earth for?” Giles forehead wrinkled with puzzled concern.
“You were right… Spike was a danger to those girls and though I don’t agree with you going behind my back, I understand why you did what you did.”
“It was wrong of me not to discuss the matter with you first. I let my personal distaste for him cloud my judgment. Spike has proven himself to be an asset…”
“He’s not an asset, Giles… he’s an ass!”
“That he is… but he’s a competent fighter and we need all the help we can get.”
“What’s with the Spike Appreciation Society pep rally?” Buffy rolled her eyes. “God… you sound just like him.”
“There is an army rising from the Hellmouth…”
“And the Spikedoms just keep on coming…”
“This isn’t a joke, Buffy. There is a legitimate threat of an unholy war…”
“I couldn’t care less about the stupid war, Giles! Mister high and mighty and the all-powerful First can have their run of the place. All the crap that’s going down here… doesn’t mean a thing to me. You want to know what I’ve been planning…. You wanna know what the great Chosen One’s been thinking about?” She paused, waiting for an answer she knew would never come. “Ice cream!”
“Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. I’ve been craving it since that night we fought over Spike and still can’t get it outta my system. It’s like I need it or something. Something so trivial… so unimportant, but it’s totally been the focus of my own private little Buffyverse.”
“Though I can sympathize with you’re… um, torment… I can’t follow what this could possibly have to do with…”
“The day of the Mayor’s ascension… I watched the only man I’d loved…Angel, walk out of my life and it was like I was watching my own heart leaving me. I thought I’d never love again… or be capable of love. When Riley left, I realized how right I’d been. There was this incredibly caring and devoted guy and I couldn’t give him what he deserved. But, there was always ice cream…”
“I…I don’t understand…ice cream?”
“Every time things would get bad… every time I thought the world was caving in around me and that I couldn’t go on… every single time I thought I was lost and alone… you would take me out for ice cream and everything would somehow be better.”
Giles couldn’t help but grin at the fond memories her perplexing explanation generated. In truth, ice cream was the only thing he knew he could offer to try to make her feel better; his end all, fail-safe solution in bringing about her beautiful smile.
“When Spike told me you were dead, ice cream was all I could think about. I was like obsessed, like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ wacko. So I went in search of it. I wandered around from store to store, taste-testing all they had to offer, never being satisfied. It wasn’t until now that you made me realize the truth.” She moved closer.
“… it never was the ice cream I needed after all… it was you. All those years you were there for me, all the times I would blindly accept your support and compassion and you never once asked for anything in return.” She stepped even closer to Giles, wanting so badly to wrap her arms around him. “I need you, Giles. I always have.”
“He loves you,” Giles didn’t know what made him say it. Perhaps it was the sincere tone of her voice that made him want to doubt her, or to cast doubt on her intensions. Regardless, the fact was presented to her and his eyes fell on his quivering hands as he waited for her reaction, hoping.
“Spike… he loves you.”
“Yeah… well… again with the not caring…”
“I’d suspected you held deep feelings for him as well,” he couldn’t look at her as she moved in closer, stopping as her foot touched his.
“Any feelings I had for him died the day he killed you… the day he reminded me that he was nothing more than a demon.”
He regained the courage to look up at her. “I am nothing more than a demon, Buffy.”
“No…you’re a Watcher, Giles. My Watcher… and it’s time you behave like one!” She bit down hard on her lip, drawing out a stream of ruby fluid that dribbled along her chin. Giles flinched back, jolting clumsily to his feet and tried to shuffle away, only to be prevented by the restraints holding him captive. She could see his obvious discomfort with the sight, but it was what he needed and he was going to make sure he got it, in spite of the cost.
“What…what are you doing?” He panted uncontrollably; his eyes anxiously avoiding the sight of the temptation presented to him, all the while being unmistakably enticed by it.
“Something I should have done a long time ago…” she dropped the stake and closed the gap between them. Giles tried to move away, stumbling backwards until his back stopped flat against the wall as her lips pressed hard against his in an undeniable kiss.
It was glorious. Buffy rested her hands on either side of his face, gently holding him still as she sucked along his bottom lip, dousing it with her flavor. Her tongue pushed through his defenses and with the insistent pressure of her mouth to his, her blood seeped past his trembling lips as she held him there, trapped within her delectable kiss. His body reacted to the exhilarating taste of her and he found himself overcome with the need for more. He gave in, licking along the inviting cut, hearing a faint moan from her as his hands settled on her hips and pulled her to him. It was like fire pumping through his lifeless frame. Every drop sent his nerves pulsing and his muscles aching with thirst for her.
“I need you, Giles…” Buffy breathed along his lips, continuing her persistent kiss with him as she tore the red-stained bandages from her wounded hand and pressed a fingernail deep into the sore until blood pooled forth. “But you need to feed,” she pulled her face away from him, watching his glazed-over expression come into view. She brought her hand to his mouth and with an unwavering motion, drew a bloodied finger along the crest of his lips, leaving a trail of the invigorating potion.
“Drink…” she ordered and when her eyes met his, the beast had returned, sending her heart pounding as if to burst free from her chest. His eyes went wide and the demonic glower seemed to mellow as a tear trickled down his hardened features. ‘Be strong,’ she quietly ordered herself and caringly touched the bulging ridge of his brow, following the curves of his misshapen face until the fingers of her good hand curled around the back of his neck and pulled him toward her blood-soaked gash. He tenderly pressed his lips to her glistening red flesh and began to drink.
Buffy watched in amazement as the mask of the beast faded and Giles’ recognizable features returned. He slowly sank to the mattress as the intoxicating serum of her blood washed over him; but his compassionate green eyes remained fixed on hers the entire time. She appreciated that he wanted to spare her from the face of the demon. Buffy knew how difficult it was to restraint, she’d watched Angel struggle with keeping it hidden from her when he’d feed. But Giles kept the beast contained as he gently suckled her wound, silently weeping his thanks to her with his grateful eyes. A rush of dizziness came over her and she drooped to her knees, settling before him as he took in the only cure for his pain. But unlike Angel, just when she though he was losing control, just when she thought Giles would take too much of her and bring her to the brink of unconsciousness, he pulled her hand away, letting out a low rumble of disapproval as he did. She was astonished by his control, watching in disbelief as he tore a piece of fabric from his sheets and carefully draped it over her fresh cut. He examined the injury with a critical eye then let his eyes wander the length of her body, taking in her weakened appearance with a concerned gaze.
“Buffy… I love you,” it sounded more like an apology than an expression of love. “And if you ever do that again…. I will kill you.”
She wanted it to be a joke, something said with brevity to lighten an awkward moment, but she knew by the deathly serious tone in his voice that it was intended as a stern warning. She gave a subtle nod of understanding as he fastened the strip of cloth with a small knot.
“I’m no expert… let’s f-face it, I’m not even a novice…” she chuckled nervously then went quiet, “… but I think I might be in love with you.”
He paused, staring despondently at her bandaged hand supported within his. His compassionate green eyes rose toward her face as he traced a leathery, scarred finger along her delicate cheek and gently cupped her chin.
“You’re not.” His frustrated smile made her wince, he didn’t believe her. She watched as he stood up, helping her to her feet with a gentle tug. “But, it’s as it should be… as it must be.”
His eyes swirled to black for a short moment and the basement door flew wide open with a deafening bang. He bowed forward and placed a feathery, light kiss to her pouted lips. Taking a brief moment to admiringly nuzzle her silken cheek and he reluctantly pulled himself away from her, not trusting himself to remain so close.
He offered a sad smile then with a brisk motion, unceremoniously tore the chains from the wall, sending the rubble of bricks crashing to the floor around him. Buffy stood frozen in her spot, watching as Giles dragging the chains along with him.
“Where… where are you going?”
“It’s none of your concern,” he ripped apart the remaining restraints as if they where paper and let them clank into a twisted pile on the floor. “Tell Dawn and the others to be strong. Train them, they need your guidance as well as any of the Potential Slayers.” He spoke as he headed toward the stairs. “Have Spike stockpile weapons as Andrew and Anya raid whatever resources haven’t yet been expended. Avoid any further confrontations with Caleb and watch your back.”
“What…Giles what are you doing?”
“When the time arrives… I’ll return.” He paused and looked back, trying to display a reassuring smile but his face was full of sorrow. “I promise.” With the slightest gesture, the space around him began to sparkle and crack.
“I love you,” his words were all that remained as he faded into nothing, leaving only an echo. He was gone and Buffy was left shocked and alone in the basement.
“I…I’ll just wait… um… wait here then?” After a moment of disorientation, she wandered back toward the center of the basement, glancing dizzily up at the basement door where the hesitant faces of a very nervous Scooby gang looked down at her. “Hey guys… what’s up with you?”
Spike strutted out of the shadows just bordering the tunnel entrance and lit up a cigarette.
“I think you might have a bit of a buzz goin there, pet…” Spike draped her arm over his shoulder, helping support her as she tried to stumble toward the stairs. Spike looked up at the gang. “You heard the man…” he sucked in a determined breath of smoke. “We got work to do.”
“So why’d he leave? Where’s he going… what’s he doing?” Xander rattled off question after question, exhausting Buffy before she’d even managed to answer one.
“He’s coming back… right?” Willow joined in.
Andrew offered Buffy a cup of cocoa and she took it with a grateful smile, shrugging in answer to the worried red-head’s question. “He said he would… when the time comes.”
“When exactly is that?” Anya asked. “Did he provide a schedule?”
“We’re not talking about mass transit, Anya,” Xander was growing more nervous with every answer. “So what’s with the Harry Houdini act? What’s he doing? And why can’t he do it here?”
“I don’t know. He wasn’t being his usual Mr. Exposition with the details. Taking the ‘King of Pain’, vaguey verse kinda route instead,” Buffy let out a heavy sigh. “Believe me… I wish I knew what was going on.”
Dawn tugged at Buffy’s arm and held up her whiteboard. “Did you tell him?”
Buffy’s lips curled back into a bashful smile. Her little sister never ceased to amaze her. But now was not the time or place.
“Tell him what? What was Buffy supposed to tell him?” Anya asked nosily.
“Nothing… It’s not important…” Buffy shook her head fretfully at Dawn whose eyes went wide with shock and she quickly returned to her scribbling.
“So what did you two talk about? All misunderstandings dead and buried… so to speak?” Xander asked, being distracted by Dawn who seemed way too preoccupied with Buffy. The young lady waved eagerly to regain Buffy’s attention then smacked her hand against her whiteboard. When Buffy saw that the message was a repeat of the previous one, this time decorated with big, bold hearts spelling out the news for all to see, the traumatized Slayer slapped the board out of Dawn’s hands, sending it soaring into the living room.
All stunned eyes fell on Buffy who tried desperately to shrink into the shadows.
“I’ll go get that for you…” Andrew tried to hurry off but was stopped cold by the tight grip of Buffy’s hand.
“No… Dawn and I will get it. Dawn!” Buffy pulled Andrew back, sending him spinning wildly toward the others. She swapped her tense grip to Dawn’s arm, dragging her along as she tried to escape the curious onlookers.
“But are we sure Giles is coming back,” Anya repeated. “He makes a good decoy for us less demonic, less super powerful ones as we attempt to run away,” Anya returned to her more pressing issue.
“He promised, Anya. So he will,” Buffy urged as she continued to drag Dawn into a more private room. “He has to…” she tried to reassure herself as she glanced down at her bandaged hand.