Greater Good Part 24/27: Preparation and Penance
The next morning, Buffy called together her generals; Willow, Faith, Xander, Spike, and Giles for the details of her plot against the First. Andrew came along, sitting in the back of the small room and keeping a watchful eye out for eavesdroppers. Oz, Anya and Dawn also watched from the sidelines as she went over the particulars. Buffy wanted to be sure about her plan before taking it to the young ladies, the girls who would have to accomplish the task.
It was fairly straightforward, they would open the Hellmouth and strike before the army of ubervamps could escape from within. No one seemed shocked by her suggestion until they realized it wasn't a suggestion at all but rather her intended plan. Nervous faces became panicked faces as everyone discussed the chances for survival and probability of winning. Buffy explained that there was a prophecy already claiming the victory over the First which prompted a few encouraging remarks but the doubts were still there. Buffy continued, explaining the incredible feeling of strength she felt when wielding the scythe and how it had some mystical power intended to be used by the Chosen One. That's when she hit them with the most radical proposal… the activation of the Potentials by way of focusing majicks through the scythe, the chosen weapon of the Chosen One. In a beat, Willow' eyes sought out Giles with full on dread at the notion.
"I don't know about this… Giles, I don't think I'm ready… tell them…" she begged but he remained silent, staring across the room at Spike, distracted by the shimmering amulet lying along the vampire's chest.
"You can do this, Wil. You're ready… I need you to be ready," Buffy insisted gently.
"What if I lose control… what if I go all veiny and psycho?"
"I trust you… I believe in you," Buffy gave her arm a squeeze and waited for a response.
"Can… can I think about it?" She asked nervously.
"Yeah… but this is kinda important. Without the whole activation part, we're pretty much kamakazing it out there." Buffy tried to be as gentle as possible but she needed Willow to understand just how important her role in the whole scheme would be. Buffy said she'd wait to announce the plan to the Potentials until Willow got back to her. The group disbanded and everyone took off to do their various chores except Willow and Giles.
"Did you know about this?" Willow asked. "Did you know she would ask me for this?"
"No," he answered succinctly, almost to the point of being rude. He crossed his arms and sat back against a wooden table situated behind him and focused his eyes on the cracked tile by his feet.
"I'm not ready, Giles. I'm dangerous."
"Yes, you are… if you choose to be," he looked over at her with a sharp, icy stare and Willow wondered if she'd done something wrong, if she'd somehow insulted him.
"I don't know what to do, Giles. I'm kinda asking for your help here and short answer treatment isn't doing it."
"You fear your power, as you should, but the majicks you have now are not the same as before. Surely you feel the difference," he remained detached to her and she began to get irritated.
"What's going on, Giles?" She took a seat beside him. "Something's bothering you."
"That’s an understatement…"
"Is it Buffy? Is it her plan?"
"I'm sorry, Willow. It's nothing," he sighed. "I guess I'm just distracted."
"What happened out there… I mean when you were gone. What happened between you and her?"
He didn't want to discuss it. "Willow… your power is clean… pure. You've harnessed the majicks and can control them, that's an indication of their purity."
"But what if I attempt this and I feel that same old wicked feeling…"
"Then you will manage it, you have the skills necessary to do so," Giles thought it strange he could offer such instruction while he was slowly losing himself to the dark majicks forever bubbling just below his calm exterior.
"But I sense the dark majicks, Giles… It's like they are still there, I can feel them."
He swallowed hard and clenched his jaw with the realization of what she was describing. "When?"
"When do you feel them?" He couldn't look at her. "Can you sense them now?"
After a moment, Willow nodded timidly. "See… they're always here, within me…"
"No, Willow…" Giles spoke softly, "…not with you." He carefully folded his hands and let them hang in front of him as he lowered his head forward to shield his face from Willow's shocked expression.
"Giles?" Her voice strained to be heard.
"The dark majicks you feel are not your own… they are mine…"
"I don't know," Giles glanced quickly over to her and had to look away from her big brown eyes pleading for him to be wrong. "I guess they've always been there, waiting. Then when Spike did what he did, they were released."
"Are you… are you controlling them?"
"Yes… but they're getting stronger with every passing day. It's just a matter of time until I can't… until I lose…"
"That's why you're leaving, isn't it?"
"It's one of the many reasons, yes." He wanted to return the focus of the conversation back to Willow.
"What Buffy is asking of you is well within your abilities, Willow. Your natural tendency is for good, you're balanced with the purest essence of majicks and not the foul energies inhabiting me. You can do what she asks, but it’s for you to decide."
"I can't hurt anyone… I couldn't live with myself." She said nervously. "What if I suddenly go to that dark place again, Giles?"
"Then I'll have to finish what I started that dark day back in the Magic Shop," he said regretfully. "Don’t' make me."
Willow actually felt relieved to here Giles' well meaning threat. "You think you could take me?" She smiled.
He leaned over and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close. "Perhaps not… but it would be quite the show." He missed the closeness they'd one shared, the strange mystical bond that only he and Willow could feel and understand. "You're an amazing sorceress, you know. I could only dream of having such powers at your age."
She wrapped her arms around him and snuggled in. "And I could only dream of not having them," she said sadly.
Buffy had work to do; to train a group of young ladies to become merciless killers and to do it in little more than a day. Stubbornness, pride, enthusiasm, all driving the team toward a sort of perfection of violence and Giles watched on as the army slowly took shape under her direction.
They'd already learned the basics of hand to hand combat, sparring with a variety of weapons both blunt and bladed and learned the most common death strikes for demonic and non-demonic combatants alike. They had their all too brief but solid foundation but Buffy had left the hardest lesson for last, that death was an inevitability and not to be feared. Whether now or 50 years in the future, death will come and claim its prize and its how you come to face it that defines you.
Buffy had faced death more times than she could count, losing to it twice until she was brought back by those unwilling to accept the loss of her. Sadly, Buffy's wish for death only made sense to Giles after he'd lost his own life. It was then that he could understand the need for rest, for peace. He hoped she'd forgotten such a wish.
In the name of doing what's best for her, Giles ordered himself to remain distanced from Buffy only to find his mind wandering back to her, his thoughts drawn to her with the haunting memory of her disappointed gaze as Spike left in a heated hurry the night before. He'd spent the day watching from the shadows. Xander, Anya, Oz, and Willow took turns checking in on him, offering him some pity company at various times. Giles half expected Andrew to take a shift in the Giles babysitting club if he'd been available but he was off on another rations wrangling mission of which he'd become quite competent. But in truth, Giles preferred to be alone, sheltered from the activities he knew he'd never enjoy again.
Watching Buffy become the teacher was a bittersweet moment, tasting both of pride for her knowledge and sorrow because he couldn't be out there in the sunlight, basking in the glory of her spectacular skill. Ironically, Giles recognized the good within his situation, if he was to keep his distance from her, the threat of incineration was a good motivator. A desperate cry echoed from deep within his mind, telling him he'd willingly risk turning to dust for the slightest chance at another exquisite kiss.
Day moved into night and even though he'd spent most of the day alone, late that evening Giles still escaped to the spiritually stripped sanctuary of his small room in hopes of a quiet place to rest and think. After only five minutes of peace, his isolation was interrupted when he caught the faint and familiar scent of the younger Summers enter the darkened space. Surprising even himself, his immediate reaction was a change of heart and he welcomed her with a kindly wave.
“Couldn’t sleep?” He asked and blindly motioned to the seat beside him. She smiled, rolling her eyes in a flustered response as she joined him on the hard wooden bench. “Me neither. Can’t seem to shut off my mind. And you?”
Dawn gave her stomach a tender rub and Giles snickered. “Not surprised with the amount of empty candy wrappers piled up out there. Looks like Willy Wonka exploded.” They exchanged amused smiles and then fell silent as their eyes looked down to the Spanish tiled floor decorated with an eerie shadow cast from the broken wood paned window above. It formed the shape of a cross. Dawn noticed Giles’ eyes fixed on it, absorbed by its concealed power. She let out a weighty sigh and motioned to it then pointed toward Giles with a curious expression.
Giles felt a tinge of embarrassment at her silent inquiry. “Strange it should bother me as it does. I’ve spent a better part of my life protected by such representations and now I can barely look on it without dread. Stranger still…I don’t know why but I find myself staring at it, unable to avoid it. Odd.”
Dawn disagreed with a slight shake of her head and pulled out a small pewter crucifix she’d had hidden in her belt. Giles sat back, noticeably disturbed by the item. She tossed it aside and Giles raised a curious brow at her actions, not understanding why she would reveal such a weapon then cast it aside without a second thought. He considered the fact she might be beginning to trust him again and watched curiously as she drew some words within the thin layer of dirt scattered along the tiled floor.
“All in the mind.”
“I suppose it is,” Giles agreed and felt his anxiety waning.
Dawn stared at him for over a minute, examining the Watcher’s profile as his staid gray-green eyes returned again to the shadowed cross chastising him from below. She snorted in frustration and shifted to the floor, on her knees. Still distracted, he didn’t detect her movement until she'd shuffled over in front of him, blocking his view of the bothersome symbol. Giles immediately felt silly for allowing the distraction to be so evident and went to speak his apologies. He delayed as Dawn reached up and gently tapped her finger to his forehead then placed it over her lips, shushing his busy mind in an advising gesture. He went to speak again and she cupped her hand over his mouth in a teasingly playful manner and shushed him once more. Giles gently took her hand in his and brought it to his lap, hesitant to release the warm grip. He nodded his understanding and smiled for the briefest moment then his face fell sober once again. She remained kneeling before him, sitting back onto her heels, wondering what bothered him so.
“I miss the sound of your voice,” he whispered, eyes glistening with tearful remorse and Dawn had to look away to avoid mirroring his aching sorrow. “I swear at times I can hear you; as if your thoughts were speaking to me… as do your eyes.”
Dawn tried to still her quivering bottom lip and be strong, showing him her strength by sandwiching his calloused hand between hers. She gave him a gentle grin that somehow made Giles feel all would be ok in the end. This youthful beauty held more silenced knowledge than he’d ever know and he wanted to pay for his crimes toward her, whether or not the outcome would prove fruitful for her or deadly for him.
“I asked you once if you trusted me,” he started and saw her smile die away. “And I betrayed that trust. I hurt you.” Dawn’s gaze fell to her chilled hand still holding his but with slightly less confidence than a moment before.
“I’d like to do something for you now. But I need your trust… your faith, once again,” he said softly, his kindly eyes pleading to the young lady to accept his unclear offer. She shyly glanced up from under a darkened brow, creased with uncertainty. “I understand if it’s too much to ask.”
Dawn sat motionless, considering what he was asking for. After a second, she pulled her hands away from him, sketched a question mark into the soiled floor, and flashed him a brave grin as she awaited his offer.
“Close your eyes,” he glided his fingers over her eyes and felt some strange sense of satisfaction as she followed his suggestion. It was an absolute sign of trust. She remained still and voluntarily blind as Giles concentrated and began to recite some long forgotten mystical incantation now inexplicably uncovered in his jumbled mind. He’d learned to accept these moments of clarity as passing flickers of hope which faded all too soon and left him in his recently conflicted and confused state.
The closing of her eyes was for him, not Dawn. Being a vampire was bad enough, he didn’t want her to witness the thing he’d really become. And as the dark majicks stirred within him, he kept a watchful eye on her trusting face and let the dark powers wash over him.
His body was no longer his own, it was a vessel for the majicks. Pulsing and throbbing, irrepressible waves of energies seeped from within Giles and began to settle around Dawn and him like some mystical fog. He repeated the spell again in an encouraging tone and felt the majicks take hold and surge outward. Then the persistent pain seized him, a commanding pain bred from the roots of the dark majicks ordering him to let go, to give in, to accept its domain over him. Even though his control of the powers tore at the very thread of his self, Giles forbid the sinister majicks to win out. He needed this for Dawn, he needed this for him. At the peak of the mystical storm, he reached out and grasped her throat, sending the torrent of dark energies to her inexperienced body. She gasped as the energies hit her, eyes jolted wide open in a panicked cry for release.
Dawn looked at him, the dark sorcerer in all his horror, pouring a mysterious vaporous cloud into her. His eyes boiled black as night and bitter cold, fractured veins cutting his features, making Giles unrecognizable and more of a monster than she’d ever imagined possible. In that terrifying moment, she let out a silent scream, calling into the shadows for help. No one heard her soundless pleas.
Giles features were twisted and wild, glassy with perspiration and shuttering under the strain of his actions. He continued his mysterious chant with an unearthly rumbling voice, growing more labored and coarse as his face began to show signs of the pain the spell was inflicting on him. Dawn's alarm intensified with his growing discomfort but Giles seemed unaffected by her panicked stare except for the intensifying maroon spark smoldering within his chilling eyes.
A brilliant burst of light radiated from his eyes and his grip suddenly tensed, verging on choking her. Giles seemed lost in his agony as he threw his head back and roared. Dawn couldn't take any more; she struggled to get free screaming again in an attempt call for help. Though it began as a noiseless yell, it grew into a choking gasp that elevated to a horrific shriek and soon Dawn was audibly crying out Giles’ name, breaking the silence with her uninhibited voice begging for him to stop.
And with the miraculous gift of the sound of her voice, he did.
The next few moments were a confusing blur for Dawn. She was rattled to the core, dizzy sick and winded. When she regained her senses from the overwhelming intrusion that was Giles’ “offer”, she saw a rushing crowd of would-be protector’s spill into the room, ready with fists and weapons alike to send the attacker to an early grave. Buffy, Spike, Xander, Willow, Oz and even Anya stood ready to beat any baddie into dust but Dawn’s eyes sought only one person who seemed absent from the spectacle of the scene.
“Giles?” It was one word; a simple name, but it was sounded out and the crowd was stunned.
“Dawn? You… you spoke…?!?” Buffy gasped and moved forward.
Dawn continued to search the small space for Giles, looking through the escalating crowd, wanting so badly to see the Watcher sometimes monster who had once stolen and then returned her voice.
“Where is he?” Dawn asked in a hoarse whisper as everyone fell into the restricted space. "He needs help…"
“Oh my god, Dawn! You…you…” Willow stuttered.
“Bloody well spoke. Like a song bird,” Spike smiled. “Well done, Niblet.”
“But… but…” Buffy took Dawn into her arms before she had a chance to finish. And as the gang fell in to join in the celebration of the return of Dawn’s speech, she noticed a shadowy figure slip out into the thick shadows of the main room. “But Giles…” she mumbled.
“You spoke… Dawn, you spoke…” Buffy sobbed and held her sister and after a moment Dawn joined in on the celebration with tears of joy and cries of thanks.