Greater Good Part 23/27: Dealing
Another silent march through the darkness of night; another perilous journey through the dangerous shadows as the small band of homeless drifters made their way back to the adopted family they’d come to depend on in troubled times. Buffy moved without reservation, keeping a brisk pace for the others who tried their best to keep up with the determined Slayer.
Giles took his time, falling back to allow himself some space but keeping within sight of the group. He was fighting back his unruly emotions, trying to bury his anger at Buffy’s words and actions. Surprise wasn’t something he could claim truthfully for he’d known of her feelings for Angel. But the tender reunion had injured him more than he’d originally accepted and the silence of the traveling group only fuelled the fire as his recollections of the affectionate exchange reinforced his anger with every step forward. He decided to use the long expedition to the new headquarters as time to reassemble himself, to refocus on the problems at hand and try again to save the world.
Dawn kept pace with Giles, walking along side the Watcher with the occasional glance over at his hardened features in a weak attempt to read his expression. She understood his anger but couldn’t fully support it and though she hadn’t been there to hear what made Buffy behave in such a way, she knew it could only be one thing, Giles was leaving, again.
Dawn wanted to ask why he felt he had to go but settled instead for the occasional half-smile in his direction when he'd notice her looking. Dawn knew Buffy loved Angel first. She'd loved Giles as well, but it was a protective love, a dutiful love born out of necessity. Now her heart had changed and she felt torn, having to choose. Giles’ leaving hadn’t given her much choice other than returning to the more comfortable love she’d remembered and had never lost with Angel. Dawn only wished she could tell him, explain away Buffy's reaction as irrational and impulsive but he would never hear her so she walked on, continuing to offer her perceptive smiles.
Xander and Oz glanced back every once in a while to make sure the Watcher hadn’t disappeared on them. Giles knew his absence had caused more harm then good for all involved and the announcement of his future departure wasn’t something he looked forward to. It would be hard for them to understand, just as it was for Buffy though she’d known before he’d even spoken a word on the subject.
Buffy’s suddenly detached attitude toward him, though understandable and justified, worried him. She needed her mind clear and attentive and not worrying over what’s to become of their doomed relationship. Perhaps distance was the best course of action for the time being.
“How far?” Giles asked quietly, hoping not to draw Buffy’s attention to him.
“It’s on 23rd and Francis Avenue, about three miles, give or take a mile,” Xander smiled. “So math and I aren’t on speaking terms.”
“2.62, but whose counting,” Oz grinned.
“Ok mister smarty pants…if you’re so brilliant, what’s that frilly little number Buffy’s sportin’ there?”
“Though adept in the wily ways of arithmetic, I failed shop,” Oz smirked.
“So what’s with the shiny sharp object Buffmyster?” Xander asked.
“Not sure yet. Some kind of weapon,” Buffy said flatly and hurried her pace.
“And here I thought it was some type of hellish gardening tool,” Xander glanced over at Giles who shook his head at the attempt at humor.
“Why are we so quiet here?” Xander asked artlessly. “Besides Dawn’s obvious aversion to the small talk, what gives?”
“Maybe Giles could fill you in,” Buffy said pointedly and swung the shimmering red axe to her rest on her other shoulder.
“Maybe later…” Oz stopped and took Dawn’s arm, pausing her advance. “There’s a posse a comin’.”
Giles took in a skeptical whiff of air and cursed himself for not noticing the scent of death before.
“Good… I’m in the mood for a little ass kickin!” Buffy aimed an edgy glance at Giles and readied herself for the first sign of the oncoming trouble.
“Xander, continue ahead with Oz and Dawn,” Giles ordered gently and stopped Dawn’s immediate disapproval with a raised finger. “We’ll be ok. I know the cross street of the church; we’ll meet up there.”
“I’m guessing two warm bodies and two rigids. You sure you’re up to the challenge?” Oz asked.
Giles face distorted to the demon with a confident snarl. “I am now.”
Oz found himself stunned for the moment, unable to comprehend the transformation he’d just witnessed. Xander took Dawn’s arm in one hand and Oz’s in his other and began to lead them away.
“I know… freaky ain’t it,” Xander reassured the young man unable to look away from the strange spectacle of Giles as a vampire.
“Not the “f” word that came to mind…” Oz answered and turned away, deciding it best to hurry on with their retreat.
“You should see his Elvis… it’s a life changer…” Xander rushed them along, keeping a tight grip on Dawn as they made their escape.
“Don’t wait up,” Buffy called out as the trio rounded the corner and disappeared into the night.
Giles scanned the streets for the oncoming pests but found his eyes returning to the upset Slayer beside him, watching her examine her new weapon with a hint of doubt.
“Are you ok?” He asked tenderly, looking back to the dark streets. "I mean… are you feeling better... your injuries?"
“Can't feel them… can't feel anything,” she answered coolly. "I'm fine."
Her answer triggered a blizzard of emotions within Giles, defensiveness for his decision, anger at Buffy's unsympathetic attitude, and sorrow for having to hurt her yet again. He held back his words of comfort and regret, choosing to keep things simple. “How are Cordelia and Wesley doing?”
“I don’t want to do this now.”
“Do what now?”
“This… this whole small talk, dodging the obvious thing.”
“I’m not dodging, Buffy.”
“No… you’re leaving. It’s what your good at.”
Giles saw the beasts come around the bend a quarter mile ahead of them and straightened up. “Amongst other things.” He growled.
The moment the demons caught sight of the Slayer and Watcher, they rushed forward and attacked in unison. Buffy took a long swipe with the scythe, cutting through one ubervamp with a clean slice, following through with an elbow to an attacking Bringer as the dust floated to the ground around her.
“It slices and dices…” she smiled wickedly at the new weapon. “And makes julienne vamps!” The other ubervamp sprang forward with slashing blows that Buffy barely avoided with a quick side step.
The fallen Bringer’s attentions fell on Giles as he wrestled with the his partner, now disarmed and quickly losing to the vampire. Two on one and Giles loved every second of it.
“Familiarize yourself to all sides to your weapon, Buffy,” back to business, Giles coached as he glimpsed her sparring with the ubervamp, obviously spurring him into an unintentional weaponry exercise session.
“But the business end is so much more satisfying,” she swung the axe again, missing the ubervamp who countered with a vicious slash across her chest, drawing a slim trickle of blood.
“Be that as it may, know your weapon as you would your enemy,” Giles caught the Bringer in the crook of his arm and snapped his neck with a brisk motion, quickly shifting his focus to the second minion.
Buffy dodged a high kick and ducked a barrage of quick jabs from the beast. “In short… vampire meet stake…” she ran the ubervamp through with the wooden end of the scythe and withdrew it in a flourish, swiftly spinning around and taking the dusting vamps head off in a final show of victory.
“Now that was more fun than I’ve had in…” she stopped
cold as her eyes fell on Giles.
“Giles? What are you…”
Before she could finish, Giles pulled the man to him and sank his fangs into the struggling Bringer’s neck. Buffy was stunned, watching in disbelief as Giles drank with an almost gratuitous pleasure as the weakening body of his victim thrashed uselessly within his grasp. Though she wanted to yell out her disapproval and stop him, she found herself without a voice.
Giles pulled the body away and set his burning gaze on Buffy as a ruby speckled and shameless grin formed on his lips. “Fear tastes as good as it smells, Buffy.” He purred and released the now limp body of the man, ignoring it as it collapsed to the pavement in a lifeless heap. “They’re scared. For the first time, I can sense their fear.”
“Giles… you… you f-fed,” she stammered and took a bumbling step back as he moved closer to her.
“Yes,” he wiped his thumb along his mouth and sucked the remaining blood from his skin.
“You drank from a person… from a human… even Spike doesn’t do that; not anymore.”
“It’s time you realize something,” Giles took another step forward and Buffy stumbled back a few paces, feeling suddenly intimidated by the Watcher as he continued to creep closer. “I am not Spike; nor am I Angel.”
“I-I know that, Giles. But this… this isn’t like you,” she said nervously.
“Isn’t it?” Giles stopped his advance, letting Buffy establish a comfortable distance between them.
“You’re not like them… you’re not a…”
“Killer?” He finished. “Oh, but I am; and have been one for some time now.”
“Not like them,” Buffy shook her head, still stunned by the shocking violence of his actions.
“No… not like them. I didn’t have to lose my soul before taking innocent life.”
It took a moment for Buffy to realize what he was referring to. “You couldn’t help what happened to Randall…”
“And Ben?” Giles face returned to his human form and Buffy felt it somehow more difficult to deal with.
“He was unarmed, weak, innocent of any crimes other than existing as he did. And I took his life without thinking twice, snuffed him from his existence.”
Buffy’s eyes went wide with shock. “I didn’t know,” she gasped, brow knotted with regret and disgust.
“You never have, Buffy.” He moved past her. “So don’t tell me who I am. You have no idea of the man I am capable of being. I told Angel we were learning to deal with this… with me. So I am.” Giles began to walk with firm strides, leaving her behind, hoping his crude demonstration helped further encourage the separation he knew was necessary for them to do their jobs and stop the next apocalypse. But buried deep within him was a sickeningly contented demon craving more of the invigorating potion he’d allowed himself. It would have to wait.
Everyone made it to the church safely.
Much to the surprise of Buffy, she entered the old building to a heroes welcome. Eager and enthusiastic Potentials rushed around her, seeking out her attention to tell of their brave adventures in running away just days before. She heard one voice bragging of tricking a Bringer into going the wrong way in the tunnels, another boasting of beating down another Bringer with a shovel to let the others get a clean break from the onslaught. She slowly weaved through the crowd and as the girls filled her ears with the tall tales of courage, she couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride in her team. They’d come so far, overcome so much.
Xander and Oz tried to pry the girls away from the tired Slayer but they wouldn’t have it. Vi noticed the scythe and started her twenty questions routine with Kennedy pressing for further details on the most recent battle scars donning Buffy’s face. Buffy actually seemed to enjoy the attention, responding with subtle grins and nods.
Giles remained in the background, watching patiently with a delicate smile. Buffy needed positive attention, she needed the encouragement and he wondered why the girls suddenly seemed to care.
“Big G’s back in the house,” Faith strolled up from behind the Watcher and took a seat on a bench beside him. She gave him a quick once over and lit up a cigarette. “You just passin’ through or are you playin this game to the end?” She offered Giles one and he refused. “Really? Fang boy said you were dippin into the old habits lately?”
“I’ll see this through to the end,” Giles answered curtly.
“End of what?” Faith puffed away. “End of world? End of you… of her… of this smoke?”
“What business is it of yours?” Giles tone came out sounding much harsher than he’d intended but he was in no mood to be evaluated.
“It became my business four years ago,” Faith said defensively.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were asking what my intentions are toward Buffy?”
“Your words, not mine!” Faith punctuated the point with her cigarette and waited a moment before continuing. “So what are they?”
“My intentions?” Giles struggled to mask the smile threatening to emerge at Faith’s unanticipated protectiveness. “As always, to do what’s best for her.” With that, Faith jolted to her feet, flicked the fresh cigarette to the floor and stomped it out with a determined boot.
“Something tells me that’s Watcher code for splittin’? But you’re here now so you’ve gotta be stayin for the party then movin on if all comes out alright?”
“Something like that,” Giles stared down at the crushed and still smoldering cigarette on the floor, suddenly craving one.
“Funny how it’s always you sayin what’s best for B?” Faith said cleverly. They let the remark linger for a moment before Faith motioned to the group of Potentials still talking Buffy’s ear off. “Spike talked me into a little pep talk with the troops. Looks like they got the message, they’re all school spirited now.”
“Where is Spike?” Giles glanced around with no sign of the vampire.
“The holy vibe he was getting in here was wiggin him big time… last I saw, he stepped into that side room over there. It’s the only room without a cross or a picture of Mother Teresa or some shit.”
Giles couldn’t hide his smile at Faith’s explanation. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go check in on him.”
“Sure… go do the parental curfew thing…” Faith took a few steps toward the gang.
“I am not Spike’s father!” Giles objected.
“Who said anything about you being the daddy, G?” Faith smirked and moved on.
The thought of Spike as some paternal figure to him made his stomach churn but the dark Slayer did have a point. Spike did seem more interested in him since his transformation. Perhaps there was some paternal bonding that occurred with siring. In any case, Giles did feel a need to see the vampire so he headed toward the room as the rest of the gang continued their reunion with Buffy, now with Faith joining in.
“Full house again?” Spike didn’t bother turning to face Giles as he quietly entered the room. “Another Bloody mouth to feed…” He grumbled.
“No thanks, already ate,” Giles knew that would elicit a response and sure enough the blonde vampire jumped up from his improvised bed of a bench seat and robes and pivoted to face the Watcher with a astonished look.
“Did you now?” He asked receptively. “Good takeout place on the corner or are you speaking of the more lively variety?”
Giles didn’t know why he felt he needed to tell Spike what he’d done but he had this overwhelming yearning to confess his deed to someone who would understand. “A Bringer on the way here.”
“You ok?” Spike took a tentative step forward with a strange expression of concern that made Giles somewhat uncomfortable. “I mean ok with it?”
“I needed it… I took it,” Giles stepped further into the room and took a seat on Spike’s temporary bed.
“And Buffy saw you?”
“I made sure she did.”
“Wha… why? She’s not so ready with the undead pride parade you know. That’s a sure fire way to make her turn tail and…” Spike paused when he caught sight of Giles’ despondent stare out the door.
“You’re leaving,” his face sunk with disappointment.
“Why is everyone here so Bloody sharp?” Giles sighed, rubbing the need for sleep from his weary eyes.
“That’s not part of the plan here Ripper…”
“I told you not to call me that!”
“She needs you!”
“Not anymore,” Giles said somberly. Spike went to disagree and stopped with notice of the sadly resolute expression on the Watcher’s face. He bit back his words and they sat in silence.
“Just my luck…” Buffy strolled in unannounced, closing the door behind her and turning to face the two vampires. “Just the twosome I needed to see.”
Spike moved to object, “We were having a little gentlemanly discussion…”
“I don’t have time for your little bloodsuckers club. I have a plan and it involves the both of you.”
Giles stood up, almost as if a soldier coming to attention and Spike joined him with a much less disciplined and slightly irritated stance.
“A plan? When did you…”
“While we were trekking here,” Buffy interrupted Giles. “Had time to think.”
“You saw Angel!” Spike blurted out and glanced over at Giles, realizing what might have taken place.
“Stop it with the scent thing. Just gives me the creeps!” Buffy squirmed.
“Bloody poof! What happened, ran out of hair club for men? Needed a reference for a good stylist?”
Buffy didn’t offer a response; she simply pulled out an item from her pocket and let it fall until it stopped, an amulet supported by a chain. She displayed the crystal pendant, staring as it spun from its dangling silver links.
“In three days, we’re going in,” she said straightforwardly.
“In? In where?” Spike asked nervously.
“The Hellmouth,” Giles already knew how she was thinking, take the game to them, force their hand early and catch them off guard.
“Can you say into the bloody fire?” Spike protested.
“I am not entertaining counteroffers, Spike.”
“Understood. Just hoping you’ve given this more thought than your average coffee order at the Espresso Pump is all.”
“Angel said this bestows strength to whoever wears it. It needs to go to someone stronger than a human, someone with a soul… a champion.”
“I suppose he offered his services?” Giles face remained dispassionate but Spike could sense his frustration, he could relate.
“Riding in on his white stallion, all gallant and noble…” Spike scoffed, more than willing to express what Giles wouldn’t.
“He tried, I refused.”
“You deem that wise? He’s proven his position as a champion.” Giles examined the pendant and tried to remember where he’d seen it before.
“I need him where he is, in case this thing wins, in case it moves on to greener pastures,” Buffy explained. “So it’s got to be one of us.”
“Then it will be me…” Giles decided and stepped forward to take the item. Buffy took a quick step back, refusing to hand it over.
“Wait… why you?” Spike interjected. “I could use the strength. Besides, silver does nothing for your complexion.”
“This thing is a puzzle, total vagueness here. Though he was sure it could help us, Angel said it might be dangerous,” Buffy said, watching carefully for both vampires reactions.
“All the more reason for me to take the fashion risk,” Spike insisted.
Giles examined the pendant and confidently shook his head. “Thankful as I am for Angel’s contribution, that is a harmless Roshire talisman, used primarily to bring the possessor good luck. It’s mostly for show but just in case, I’ll wear it.”
“Hey, I could use Lady Luck’s blessing…” Spike interrupted again. “Look here, if this thing can help… if I can help, let me. Give me this chance, Buffy. Let me do something right for a change,” his eyes begged to her and she could see the sincerity in his eyes.
“I’ll go along with whatever you decide,” Giles wanted to show his support but something told him the obligation of bearing the amulet belonged to him.
She glanced between the two vampires, nervously biting at her bottom lip in the first true show of emotion displayed to the men.
“I… I gotta think this over,” she turned and hurried off, escaping out the door with the pendant still firmly in her hand. As the door shut, Spike lit up a cigarette and returned to his seat at his bed. “Such a skittery little thing, would never know she was the Chosen One.”
“She’ll do fine. We all will,” Giles stared up to the star filled sky beyond the hazy window, trying to feel the confidence he’d suggested with his words but failing to sell the emotion even to himself.
“You know what that lil’ bauble is, don’t you?” Spike asked coolly.
“As I said, it’s simply a superstitious charm, nothing more.”
“Yeah… right.” Spike puffed away, knowing full well the Watcher wasn’t telling everything.
Giles returned to his seat beside Spike, reached over and plucked the fresh cigarette from his fingers, taking in a hearty breath as he settle back against the aligning brick wall.
“You could of asked, you know?” Spike snickered. “Would have been the proper and polite thing to do.” Spike continued in a mocking tone.
“Yes, and such conduct works so well for me… brought me a life full of what?” Giles let the smoke trickle out slow, creeping along his lips. “Not a bloody thing.”
“Sure it did…” Spike huffed. “Got you her, didn’t it?”
“As is to be expected, I don’t quite follow your strange logic.”
“It’s why someone like you can end up with her, you know?” Spike lit up another cigarette and settled back against the wall as he continued on. “After all the wrong turns and mixed messages, it was the good man who won out.”
“I’m far from a good man, Spike. I’ve been walking in darkness much longer than your recent enrollment of me into the society of the damned.”
“Oh, bugger that!” Spike pushed himself off the bed and threw his arms up in a show of frustration.
“Enough already! Darkness… you?” He waved a flippant hand toward Giles as he started to pace around the room. “Listen here mate, nothing you have ever done… nothing you could do or will ever do can even light a candle next to the searing blaze of sin I’ve left in my wake.” Spike took a deep breath of smoke, growing more agitated as he fanned the flames of his own rant. “So you’ve taken a few lives. Cry me a bleedin’ river, Ripper. I’ve stained the soil with more innocent blood than you will ever know. I’ve tasted the sweet flesh of children, in more ways than one, while their mothers watched and wept for mercy. I’ve slaughtered for the sheer pleasure of the hunt. I’ve ripped into the righteous and scoffed at the holy. Don’t give me this fuckin’ repentance shit.”
Giles watched silently as Spike unburdened his heavy soul, regarding it as some crude confession before the fates have their way with him.
“You think you’re unworthy of her. I get that. Hell, I’d wholeheartedly agree. But she loves you, Giles."
He couldn't stay unspoken any longer, "It doesn’t matter…"
"Don't say that!" Spike interrupted with a threateningly positioned clenching fist. "Don't you fucking play down what that means! Her love… it's all I want, all that keeps me going… and she chose you, Buffy loves you. So, enough with this undeserving piss already,” Spike seemed to settle down in his tirade, taking a deep breath of smoke. “She's your bloody absolution, mate. Now I’ve gotta get mine!” With that, he stormed off toward the door and Giles stopped himself from interrupting his exit. The vampire needed his time alone to think, they all did.
As Spike left in a huff, the door swung back exposing the crestfallen features of the Slayer returning for one final word and getting much more than she'd anticipated. She stared at Giles, waiting for him to react to her presence. He didn’t.
“I think I’ve found my champion,” she said dourly and slowly turned and walked away, leaving Giles alone in his uncomfortably empty space.