Greater Good Part 20/27: Touched
Buffy ran swiftly through the empty streets, expertly maneuvering through the maze of alleys and fields she’d memorized over her years as the Hellmouth gate keeper. It was most likely a trap, a lure to bring her to the lair of the First, but she didn’t care. A singular emotion coursed through her veins, fear. Not for her, for Giles, for the man who refused to accept her love. She would prove her love for him if only she could make it in time. She was determined to reach him or die trying.
Even with her Slayer speed and stamina, traveling to the edge of town took over two hours. Tired and out of breath, she spotted the famous winery her mother had hailed a savior for supplying her many good Chardonnay’s and picked up the speed of her already furious pace. The path leading to the heavily wooded building was clear of any guards, allowing her to make a clean approach to the entrance. She paused only for a moment to listen for sounds of the mysterious residents inside. Reaching for the latch to the door, Buffy jerked back as it seemed to move under its own control and the door swung open.
“You made good time? The boys and I had a friendly wager you’d get lost at Dawson Street,” Caleb stepped outside, a jovial smile curling along his lips as Buffy brandished her sword and held it at the ready. “Do come in…” As the preacher gestured for her to enter, a small army of Bringers and Ubervamps came out of nowhere and surrounded her.
“Think I’ll pass,” she said, her nervous eyes darting from one monster to the next.
“I’m afraid I must insist,” Caleb nodded to the Bringers who quickly rushed her.
Buffy skillfully swiped the blade, slicing clean through the first few attackers who attempted to reach her. Another two came from behind and she defended her backside with a savage leg swipe, knocking one off balance as she ran through another with a furious thrust of the blade. But it took only seconds for the Ubervamps to make there way into the scuffle and before she knew it, Buffy was trapped.
As she tried in vain to push off the growing mob of Bringers and Ubervamps, she was strangely relieved to know the warnings of Giles’ suicide were just a rouse to lure her there. There was no concrete way to know he was safe but something in her heart told her he was. A fast kick to the back of the outnumbered Slayer’s head and the overwhelming battle was done. The band of minions piled on top of her, holding her still as others secured her hands behind her back with heavy rope. They forced her to her feet and led her into the building as the cocky preacher seemed to skip along with them in giddy delight.
“I honestly thought you’d be smarter than this,” he started. “But the all-knowing darkness spoke the truth. Knew you’d come, regardless of the risk. You must really love that dead man walkin.” He strolled around the working crew of henchmen as they fastened her to a solid wooden post in the center of a cellar stocked full with oak barrels.
“So, what’s the deal here? A little wine and dine and you think you can win my heart, white collar?” Buffy snarled. “Newsflash… you’re not my type.”
“No… you like ‘em stiff and sinful, dontcha?” He grinned wryly. “Don’t’ flatter yourself. I’ve no use for an immoral whore, and that is what you are little girl… a tempestuous little tramp.”
“Oh… well, in that case I’ll be on my way…” she tried the ropes and could tell they’d done a good job at securing her.
“And miss the evening’s entertainment? I think not,” he pulled out a switchblade and swayed the ruby stained blade in front of her, taunting her.
“Though I do so enjoy your style…” the soft British tone came from the shadows and Buffy’s eyes searched the darkness for its owner, “your methods have grown quite tiresome.” Giles stepped out of the darkness, fully clad in black, taut faded jeans and a button up black silk shirt, dressed just as he’d been before he left her. His eyes met hers, a kindly soft green and Buffy felt her heart leap with the sight of him.
“Tiresome? Oh, I’m sorry…” Caleb drew the knife across Buffy’s forearm, slicing through her skin like it was warm butter. Buffy grimaced at the sight but refused to show any real distress. “Is that better?” Caleb smiled as Giles moved forward, watching as his mob of Ubervamps and Bringers cowered with the opposing figure’s approach.
“Not in the least…” Giles gave Buffy warm smile and shook his head. “I told you to kill her.” Her eyes fell closed with the words, shutting out the obvious truth of the situation with self disgust.
“In due time…” Caleb snickered, noticing Buffy’s disappointment. “Awww… now see here… she seems down. Lonely little damsel, waiting for your dark avenger to come save you?”
“You’re not listening to me, Caleb,” Giles strutted up beside the Preacher and gave him a stern glare. “I want her dead.”
“But look at that face… so delicate… so fragile…I want to take my time and enjoy mutilating it.”
Buffy opened her eyes and stared coldly at the false Giles just inches away from her.
“Could you get another show? I’m bored with this one.”
“So… what now? You got me. I think this is the customary time to tell me your plans for world domination.”
“World domination? Nothing of the kind. I don’t care much for this world. It’s but a stage for my liberation.”
“There you go. Now you’ve done it. Once you get the big guy talkin’…” Caleb took a seat on some nearby barrels.
“It’s what infests this crude earth that interests me…” the counterfeit Giles leaned in close, his eyes dissecting her with their cutting gaze.
“He means humans,” Caleb explained.
“My dear boy…” Giles offered him another stern glare, “… do be quiet or I’ll have to take you over my knee.”
“I’d pay to see that,” Buffy tried to hide her fear with the usual wisecrack but could tell the First could see right through her brave facade.
“Such insolence from an unfortunate crumb of humanity,” Giles focused back to her. “I’ve changed my mind, kill her.”
“Hey, that’s not fair,” Buffy said eagerly. “I haven’t heard your evil plans yet. It’s the rules! And don’t I get one phone call or a last meal or something?”
“Will you promise to be a good little girl, then?” the apparition asked tolerantly, in an almost chastising manner.
“You know what? This fatherly speak ain’t doin it for me… maybe if you try the rakish uncle…”
“Tear her heart out,” Giles stepped passed her and into the darkness. “I have more important things to attend to.”
“It’ll be my pleasure,” Caleb skipped forward enthusiastically and proudly displayed his red tainted knife once again. “So, which do you prefer? Light or dark meat?”
It happened so fast, the gang hadn’t registered the attack until it was well under way. Oz transformed into the wolf in an instant and had the Bringers on the run within seconds. But the Ubervamps were still marching forward and Spike and Faith lashed out with full force. Willow stood stunned, totally transfixed by the savage werewolf slashing its razor sharp claws across the tender necks of the eyeless minions. A spray of blood across her face brought her out of her daze and she quickly assessed the situation. Three Bringers were down, the gory shreds of their remains splattered along the floor as the werewolf worked to keep another two from gaining entry to the house. Willow spotted three more just outside, waiting at a safe distance as their comrades struggled to seize control of the situation. A loud snap sounded and she looked back to see Faith smugly displaying a freshly decapitated Ubervamp head just before it dusted to a musty ash.
“Just like opening a beer bottle,” she smiled.
Spike threw a powerful punch, thrusting his fist deep within the chest cavity of another Ubervamp and ripped out its black heart. “Bleedin’ piñata!” The beast dusted as the final Ubervamp stormed forward. Just as Willow was regaining her confidence, she noticed three more beasts being guided up the path by five more Bringers.
“We’ve got company,” she warned, quickly repeating the blockade spell. The gore sodden werewolf returned inside just as the mystical barrier went up. Faith and Spike made short work of the last trapped Ubervamp, double teaming it with a fury of punches and kicks then finalizing the battle with a dual staking. As the dust settled, Willow offered them both a grateful smile.
“I’d say round one was a blowout,” Faith wiped her bloodied hands on her jeans.
“There’s more out there,” Willow reminded them. “I altered the spell so it would give us a bit more time but it won’t hold long.”
“I’m more worried about Chewie over there…” Spike motioned toward the werewolf who had begun to realize it had already run through its prey and was now focusing its attentions to the vampire, the Slayer and the witch. “Looks like Rover needs a new chew toy.”
Giles hadn’t planned on taking the detour through the valley land but the scent of the grapes was enticingly sweet to his heightened senses. It was a pleasant change from the stench of ash and death he’d grown accustomed to smelling recently around the Hellmouth. He wondered if the winery had been abandon as the rest of the town had. After a brief internal struggle of whether or not to quench his curiosity for the possibility of free wine, Giles decided to ignore his darker side and continue on toward his destination, the Summers’ home. He could see the pale hint of light blue sky creeping just above the horizon and knew his time above ground grew short. Yet again, the city sewers beckoned for him to join them in their soggy filth. Otherwise, the vampire would have to settle for making himself at home with a good barrel of wine. His good intentions were interrupted by a brisk morning breeze wafting past his nose, carrying the emotive perfume his body had grown so attuned to and in a silenced heartbeat, he took off running toward the winery, running as fast as his lifeless physique could carry him.
“Good doggie…” Spike tried to show his hands in a passive display as the werewolf moved closer, baring his bloody fangs at its next intended prey.
“Oz,” Willow squeaked. “Oz, it’s ok now. You can… you can do what ever you do to undo what you’ve done…”
“Well said Red, but I think Old Yeller has other plans,” Faith warned as the beast took a large bound forward and let out a menacing snarl. Louder thumping at the barrier drew the focus of the beast away for a moment as Spike motioned anxiously toward the kitchen.
“I think you two better run along and catch up with the others before this oversized hamster turns us into kibbles-n-bits,” the vampire stepped into the path between the werewolf and the retreating women.
“Those Hells angels wannabes outside aren’t gonna be held off too long, Wil. We gotta split while the splittin’s good.” Faith urged.
“I’ll find a bloody leash and bring ‘em along… just go!” Spike leapt forward to hold back the rushing beast as the others took off into the kitchen. When they tried the door, it was sealed shut. Spike wrestled with the werewolf, feeling the claws scrape and scratch along his arms and legs as he tried to allow them time to get away.
“Xander, it’s us… let us in!” Faith yelled.
“How do I know it’s you?” Asked a nervous voice from the other side of the door.
“Open the fuckin’ door or I’ll tear you a new …”
The door cracked open and Xander peeked out. “You have a strange mating call there, Faith.” Willow and Faith forced the door back and pushed their way past him.
“We gotta go now!” Faith ordered.
“Girls are already gone. Sent them packing in the tunnels. I stayed behind to…” an eager tug at Xander’s shirt drew his attention at the upset young lady beside him. “Ok, so Dawn stayed with me. Where’s Spike and Oz?”
“It involves a kiddie pool and a lot of lime Jello, I’ll tell you about it sometime. Let’s go!” Faith began to herd them toward the tunnels.
“But Oz…” Willow whined.
“I think he can take care of himself, we have Potentials to baby-sit here. Come on!” Faith continued to push until the gang finally followed her direction and began down the sewer tunnel.
“Oz… listen… I know we haven’t had much time to bond here,” Spike landed a quick punch and winced regretfully as the werewolf recovered instantly. “But we got so much in common… you have nice, sharp…fangs…” Spike vamped and offered a friendly smile. “See, got a set of pearly whites myself.” With another loud hammering at the barrier, Spike looked over to see an ever growing mob of Bringers working their way along the perimeter of the house as five Ubervamps stalked eagerly just behind them. A glimpse of something caught the blonde vampire’s attention within the chaos of the scene.
“What is it?”
Spike’s head jerked back around toward the werewolf and he was pleasantly surprised to see the return of the human, albeit fully nude human, rather than the beast he’d just done battle with. “Nice to have you back.”
“Sorry… it’s kinda tricky reversing it.” Oz grabbed his almost shredded articles of clothes and started to wrap them around his exposed body. Spike quickly removed his leather coat and tossed it to the young man as he returned his attention to what had caught his curiosity just moments before.
“What is it?”
Spike’s eyes went wide as he saw the familiar figure step out from the crowd and move toward the open door. It was Giles, looking just as he saw him last but with a warm smile greeting the excited vampire.
“Giles?!” Spike rushed forward. Oz hurried to get himself covered as he watched the vampire eagerly move toward the Watcher. “’Bout bloody time you came…”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to…” But it was too late, the enthusiastic vampire touched the mystical barrier and it was all that was needed to send it evaporating into the chilled early morning air. The second the eerie sizzle of the dispersed barrier sounded, Spike knew what he’d fallen for.
“Shit!” He pivoted as fast as he could, twisting his legs beneath him and motioning wildly for Oz to run. Luckily, the young man didn’t need a second warning and Spike found himself having a rough time keeping up as they bolted toward the back of the house.
“Thank you, William. You’re as useful as ever,” the bogus Giles gave a grateful smile as the mob of Bringers and Ubervamps stormed inside the deserted house. Spike and Oz made it to the back door, crashing through it like it was cardboard. The hoards of minions were much too busy searching the house for the Potentials to pay any mind to the escaping werewolf and vampire.
“I’m a stupid, stupid man!” Spike yelled.
“We should split up!” Oz yelled.
“Got it dogboy!” Spike shot off in a direction perpendicular to Oz.
“I’m gonna need a new wardrobe at this rate,” Oz thought as he transformed once again into the wolf to make a faster getaway.
“And where are we off to now? There’s nowhere to run,” the apparition of Giles paused at the back doorway and smiled as he watched the unlikely pair escape into the early breaking dawn. “Pity that annoying orb is making its appearance so soon. Best be getting my boys to bed. Enjoy your reprieve my friends. I’ll be seeing you soon enough.”
“No…” The demanding tone woke Buffy more than the following palm slap across her swollen face. “No sleep yet. Soon, I promise. Then you can sleep forever.” Caleb gripped her bruised chin and gave her a commanding shake to stir the haze from her pounding skull. A warm trickle of ooze drizzled down from her brow as her head fell back against the wooden post supporting her tired frame.
“But mom… I wanted to watch the late show…” Buffy slurred her words, trying not to move her split lip any more than necessary. Though she would never give him the satisfaction of a show of her pain, Buffy was in bad shape and she knew it. Most of the cuts were shallow but Caleb had given her enough to make her woozy from loss of blood. Her arms and legs were growing numb and cold. Recognizing the intensifying symptoms of shock, Buffy knew she needed to stay awake so spurring the preacher into slapping her awake was the best plan of attack to stay alive. “I thought your boss wanted me dead.”
“Good point…” Giles stepped out from the shadows and paused beside Caleb. “Why is it the Slayer still breathes, Caleb?” he waited for an answer with a sternly raised brow.
“You’re back,” Caleb shot a surprised glance over to the spirit. “But where… where are those little whores? You promised me!” The preacher started to get anxious. He noticed Buffy’s eyes fall heavy and finally close, overwhelmed with fatigue.
“You haven’t fulfilled your end of the bargain yet. No dead Slayer, no sweet young play things,” Giles meandered impassively around the bloody and bound Slayer. “She’s weak; I can sense her slipping away. Why don’t you end this so we can focus on more pressing matters?”
“No need to worry, it’s well protected,” Caleb insisted.
“Protection wouldn’t be necessary if the Slayer was dead, would it?” the false Giles urged.
“She’s already dead. It will never be hers,” Caleb wiped his bloody knife clean and brought it to Buffy’s neck, pressing the glimmering blade to her flesh just enough to draw a thin stream of blood down her clammy skin.
“Finish it, Caleb,” Giles said with a restrained fury. “This is your final warning. You will not be given another. Understand?”
“Perfectly,” Caleb smiled confidently and watched as the First disappeared once again into the shadows. The preacher turned back to face the unconscious Slayer. “It’s been fun…really it has. You’re quite the willful little thing. But in the end, you’re nothing but another dirty little girl. And I’m afraid it’s time to cleanse that immoral soul,” he shook her chin again with a subtle grip to stir her back to consciousness. “Wake up …time to die.”
“T-time to w-what?” Buffy mumbled in a dazed stupor.
“Time to die,” the stern British tone echoed from the shadows and Caleb rolled his eyes, glancing back in a huff, growing irritated by yet another interruption.
“I told you I’d do it! Give me a moment…”
The recognizable form of the Watcher marched boldly out of the shadows again. “I wasn’t speaking to her!”
“What…?” Caleb pulled away from the oblivious Slayer, watching in total confusion as the approaching Watcher’s eyes swirled into black pools and his edgy features grew fractured with dark, spidery veins. “Your not…”
“No, I’m not.” Tendrils of purplish-blue energy erupted from Giles hands, colliding into the midsection of the unwary preacher, sending him crashing into a stack of empty barrels. Caleb struggled to get to his feet as the sorcerer let loose with another storm of dark majicks, slamming him hard against the brick wall and continuing to unleash the powers until he collapsed lifeless to the wood floor. Once Giles eyes fell on the damaged Slayer barely conscious in the center of the dark space, the unmoving and smoking body of his opponent was no longer of any concern. Giles gathered up all his remaining strength and control and harnessed the explosive power of the majicks, rushing over to his deathly still Slayer. She weakly opened her swollen eyes just as he got to her.
“Buffy… Buffy, please…”
“You…you’re n-not him…” she mumbled in stubborn denial. “He s-said h-he’d come back…” she whimpered. When his gentle hand reached forward and brushed a sweaty strand of hair from her bloodied face, she let out a thankful sigh of labored breath, allowing herself a moment to appreciate the tenderness of his simple touch. “Giles?” She choked in disbelief.
“It’s me. I’m here,” he reassured her as he worked the binds loose.
“He s-said you were going to k-kill yourself,” she let out a feeble giggle as her arms fell to her sides and she lurched forward into his awaiting arms. “But, you’re alive!”
“Afraid not, love. But I am here,” he pulled her closer; holding her as close as he could, wishing he could take away all the pain and torment she’d suffered.
She let her head fall back so she could gaze up into his radiantly green eyes. “Has anyone ever told you that you have the strangest sense of humor?”
“You’ll have to tell me about it later. We need to get out of here.”
“No…” Buffy pushed herself away.
“No? Why? Buffy we need…”
“They’re hiding something here,” she stumbled around the room, tripping over the uneven wooden planks of the floor. “Something they don’t want me to have. Could be what Oz told us about.”
“Oz?” Giles was lost. “What did Oz tell you?”
Buffy tumbled to the floor and Giles hurried to help her up. “What did he tell you?”
“It is not for thee. It is for her alone to wield,” Buffy said, happy to finally be rid of the phrase she’d burned in her memory in hopes that Giles would know something of its meaning.
“Sounds like a weapon,” Giles glanced around, halfheartedly looking for the mysterious item as he concentrated on listening for the First’s support troops.
“You’ll never know!” Caleb rushed toward the couple and Buffy instinctively blocked him with a swift kick to the chin, balancing herself with a tight grip on Giles’ arm. The preacher tumbled backwards, smashing hard to the floor with enough force to send a leg piercing the rotting wooden floor boards. Buffy watched as Caleb struggled to free himself from the splintered snare.
“Keep him busy,” Buffy leveled a powerful punch through the floor beneath her, “I’m gonna find this toy surprise.”
“Buffy!” Giles rushed to her to prevent her from descending into the freshly revealed pit when her confident smile made him pause in his tracks. “Be careful.”
“Make that a double!” She nodded and disappeared as Giles aimed his attentions back on Caleb.
“That slut will never be able to remove it from the seal…” Caleb finally pulled his leg free and got upright.
“I don’t care,” Giles stepped forward, his eyes darkening again with the ominous power.
Caleb shuffled nervously backwards as the sorcerer continued his advance; all the confidence the preacher had once shown had vanished. “The First’s army will feast on your damned soul when the Slayer line has been trampled to nothing.”
“I don’t care,” another step and his pale skin grew fractured with dark magic.
“You will die where you stand, filthy beast!”
“I don’t care.”
“What do you care about?” Caleb yelled out with frustration, bothered by his foes lack of concern.
“Her…” Giles growled as the electric crackle of energies intensified in his hand. The Preacher took off toward the exit, running as fast as he could manage with a wounded leg. With a sneer curling along his bluish lips, Giles unleashed a blast that set the room ablaze in an instant. The flames engulfed the walls, dancing upwards until they met the ceiling and began to spread overhead. The sorcerer stood motionless, absorbed within the surge of the energies streaming through him. The power was taking him, and he wanted to let it.
“Giles!” Buffy struggled to crawl out of the hole in the floor. She tossed her shiny new toy over the splintered wood and reached for a better hold. Dripping tar and glue seared at her skin as the fire raged around them. She spotted the dazed Watcher standing with his back to her, totally still as a blanket of flames flickered mere inches from his face. “GILES!”
He turned toward her, eyes hollow with obsidian darkness and face cracked with black lines of bitter hatred. He seemed utterly possessed by the majicks. After a moment, his eyes began to recognize her and the darkness faded from his incensed features. He quickly moved to help her.
“Didn’t mean to interrupt your meditation,” Buffy took hold of his outstretched hand.
“It wasn’t meditation…” Giles pulled her up and let her get her footing beside him, “It was assimilation.”
“Majicks?” Buffy took up the newly discovered weapon and looked up into Giles worried stare.
“I’m loosing control, Buffy.” Giles concerned look stayed fixed on her as the building structure started to give way around them.
“Not with me, your not! Time to go,” she took his hand and pulled him along as she made her way to the exit. They maneuvered through the smoke-filled halls and doorways, making it out of the collapsing structure just in time for it to flare and hiss with the blazing of the wine inside. As they ran a short distance from the inferno, the sun shone just over the horizon, casting its brilliant light to block their intended path. Giles stopped in his tracks and watched quietly as Buffy continued on a few paces. She paused with the realization he wasn’t at her side and turned back.
“Go!” Giles ordered; glancing around for any secondary path he could take.
“I’ll stay with you…” she stepped back toward him.
“You have to go… make sure the others are ok. The potentials need you,” he said evenly, guiding her gently to make the logical choice.
“But I need you…”
“Tonight,” he smiled appreciatively. “I’ll come.” The winery exploded into the billowing cloud of smoke and flame behind Giles but his eyes never left Buffy’s, staring at her with a wholehearted promise. A mob of ten Bringers spilled out of the wreckage, some scattering into the surrounding brush; some were set ablaze and panicked as a few headed straight for Giles. “Go…now!” The Watcher turned just in time to counter an attack from one Bringer and to avoid a dagger from another. Buffy watched for a moment as Giles fought off the attackers. But as three of them somehow caught sight of her, they took off at full speed in her direction.
“Buffy… Please!” Giles yelled as he slashed the Bringers throat and blocked another’s kick. Buffy decided to follow his orders and get her and her new toy surprise safely away. But her heart screamed out its discontent at her choice as she gained distance and speed, quickly out running her pursuers.
‘You better come home!’ she thought as she headed into the rising sunlight.