Greater Good part 3/27: Giving In
Robin Wood sighed with relief that he'd made it to his garage in one piece. With the luck he'd been having, it was a miracle he hadn't been jumped by a gang of the usual Hellmouth nasties that inevitably sprang out of nowhere on his evening strolls. But he was particularly fortunate to avoid any confrontation at the moment since he still suffered from the wounds given to him by his most despised foe. He dipped his hand into his pocket to retrieve the keys and hissed as his raw knuckles scraped along the coarse cloth, an unpleasant reminder of his encounter with Spike. His spirits were low enough without the souvenirs donning his face that reminded him of his failure every time he looked in a mirror. But it didn't matter. He had to move on to other business. There was a bigger evil to deal with and he intended to be a part of the solution.The first step in his to-do list was to rebuild his workout room, his sanctuary.
Biting his lip, he carefully tugged the keys from his pocket and glanced at the lock. It hung loose, unlocked. Being too tired to give it much consideration, he assumed he'd just forgotten to fasten it from the other night. After all, he wasn't clear-minded after his confrontation. He let the door swing open, disappearing into the darkness.
A feeling of dread came over him as he tried to focus on the shadows; it wasn't going to be a pretty picture. He took another deep breath, gathering the last of his determination and stepped inside. The door closed behind him as his feet unintentionally kicked an unnoticed scrap of rubble across the floor. Robin reched out, searching for the light switch with his sore fingers, waiting for his eyes to slowly adjust to the blackened room. At last, his fingertip brushed the switch and the light blazed on, momentarily blinding him. He squeezed his eyes shut until his instant headache waned.
"Rough night, I take it?" A subdued but unfamiliar voice startled Wood as he struggled to regain his vision. Unfortunately his eyes were much too swollen and sore to provide him with little more than a hazy glob standing at his computer table. "Spike had himself one of his 'good days' I see. Certainly worked a number on you."
Wood grasped the wooden stake tucked within his belt when the voice suddenly clicked in his memory, Buffy's Watcher. "Mr. Giles, I didn't expect company."
"I'm sorry. Come at a bad time, did I?" Giles took a brief look around and gave Wood a sympathetic grin. "This place has seen better days, I suppose."
"Yes." Wood set down his bag and examined the dreary aftermath of the fight of his life. Though the damage was impressive, it didn't seem to do the battle justice. Wood felt he'd lost much more than the fight that day; he lost his self-respect. "I was just about to clean up. Seems like a lost cause."
"Still, you have your health." Giles smiled and watched the young man strain to remove his coat, his face distorting in pain as he tried to maneuver the jacket off his battered limbs. "Or what's left of it anyway." On instinct, Giles went to his aid, carefully slipping the heavy leather coat off the injured man's shoulders.
"Thanks." The discomfort on Wood's face faded and he turned around, giving his considerate guest a warm smile. "Seems like Watchers are always watching out for more than they bargained for." He took back his coat and draped it across the table, giving the spacebar of his keyboard a quick press to stir it to life. "I meant beyond your Slayers. Is that part of the job or did I manage to meet the only two Watchers who seem to give a damn?"
"We are a curious lot." Giles walked over to the table and cautiously leaned back against it, testing his weight on it before relaxing further.
"That you are." Wood seemed absorbed in a message on his laptop and Giles tried to take a peek at what it stated. The screen flashed on to another screen too quickly and Giles decided to busy himself and scan the room, taking in the peculiar decor.
"I gather you and Crowley were close?" He noticed a hint of a smile dancing along Wood's lips as he reflected on what must have been pleasant memories of his childhood living with a Council soldier. He couldn't help his curiosity in the man's relationship to a Watcher, to a man who some might see as a failure in his duty to safeguard the Slayer's life.
"We were." He chuckled. "We were a team." Wood typed as he spoke and Giles watched the screen flicker at the man's able fingers.
"I must admit, I find it fascinating that a Watcher would take on the responsibility of caring for the offspring of his charge."
"You make it sound so... I don't know, indifferent." Wood caught a glimpse of Giles' thoughtful stare at one of his many hanging crucifixes. "What if you were forced to face that situation? Wouldn't you raise Buffy's child if you had to?"
"I tried," Giles mumbled, suddenly immersed in unwanted memories. He broke from his daze, realizing he'd actually voiced the thought aloud. "I mean... I would think it too difficult. The child would serve as a constant reminder of the Slayer, a haunting reflection."
"You talk as if you know," Wood pried.
"So, Crowley took you in and taught you." Giles had no intention of continuing on with the current line of questioning. "Did you see him as a father?"
"Not at first. I was young and stupid, a rebellious little shit." He stopped his typing and joined Giles on the opposite side of the computer. "I hated him at first. Blamed him for my mother's death." Wood paused, obviously discouraged by the memory of his behavior. "I didn't understand what he was going through, too busy with my own heartbreak to care. So I turned to the streets for a new life and ran away."
"But he found you." Giles smirked.
"Every time, like he had some magical Watcher GPS or radar or something." He grinned. "He would take me home, without scolding me or asking questions. Just offer me a warm meal and try to give me my space. He understood. He was amazingly patient."
"That comes with the territory," Giles said softly.
"I was so terrible to him, though. I would go off on him, throwing childish tantrums, screaming, asking him where he was when Spike killed my mother, why wasn't he there to help."
"His response?" Giles asked with a raised brow.
"He didn't say anything, just pulled me into that incredible bear-hug of his and refused to let me go until I calmed down." Wood paused for a moment and stared at his swollen hands. "Even now, when I feel my anger taking control, I just remember how it felt, knowing that at that moment I was safe. That I was loved. Couldn't help but let go of my anger when he wrapped those strong arms around me. I always wondered if he had some superpower to take away all the hurt and all the pain. After all, he trained the Slayer. He had to be a superhero too, right? It wasn't till his death that I realized he wasn't like my mother. He wasn't a superhero or a Slayer. He was a normal guy... all too human, mortal. And he left me alone and lonely much too soon." Wood glanced over at Giles and suddenly felt embarrassed, he was rambling. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Giles smiled understandingly. "I asked."
"But I'm sure you didn't expect my whole life story. Guess I'm feeling a little... um..."
"Lonely?" Giles offered. And Wood returned his eyes to the kind-hearted Watcher perched beside him.
"I was going to say introspective but yeah, feeling a bit friendless at the moment."
"I know the feeling."
Wood stared at his bruised hands and sighed. "I failed Mr. Giles," he whispered.
"Yes." Giles face turned serious. "You did."
"Spike says he's de-triggered."
"He feels he is."
"What do you think? Is he still a danger to Buffy... to the potential Slayers?"
"It doesn't matter." Giles pushed off from the table and began to stroll aimlessly around the room, noticing the variety of crosses that adorn the walls.
"Doesn't matter?" Wood was surprised. "How can you say that? Of course it matters." His voice grew louder, more insistent. "A war is coming Giles. We need to know who are enemies are."
"It's none of your concern, my friend." Giles noticed a particularly handsome pewter crucifix lying at his feet. "Not any longer." He knelt down, appreciating the detail of its etching while comprehending his fear of its authority. It was once commonplace for him to wield such a token of spirituality as a weapon against the undead. Now it held such ominous loathing for him that he was fascinated by his revulsion for the piece.
"I don't understand. Mr. Giles?" Wood stepped toward the Watcher and paused as he straightened back up. "Wha..."
"I believe this is yours?" Giles smiled pleasantly and held out his hand, offering the decorative cross back to its rightful owner. Wood's eyes fell on the piece with confusion until he noticed the smoke creeping along the skin that touched the metal. Slight bursts of flames and sparks danced from Giles' hand as he cupped the crucifix, keeping a calm and composed smile as he patiently waited for Wood to accept the item.
"You..." Wood stumbled back, unable to fully accept the obvious truth. "What are you?"
"I would think you'd learned as much from Crowley," Giles tossed the cross to Wood who caught it and quickly extended it out before him, trying desperately to keep the approaching demon at bay with the holy weapon.
"I'm s-sorry," Wood stuttered nervously and shuffled around to the other side of the table as Giles nonchalantly followed along after him.
"Apology accepted." Giles smiled genuinely and continued to pursue his quarry. "And appreciated. I received no apologies from Spike when he tore out my throat. I find it curious that he spared you the same treatment. Why might that be?"
"Spike did this to you?" Wood's eyes widened in shock as he finally remembered the stake that he had hidden in his belt. "I'll make him pay for this, Mr. Giles. I swear."
"Like you did when you swore to avenge your mother's death?" Giles shook his head and glanced at his burned palm. It was already healing. "And that went so well now, didn't it?"
"There's still time." Wood curled his fingers around the stake and began to slide it out, glancing away for a brief moment to check the weapon. It was a mistake. The vampire moved so swiftly, Wood never had a chance. Giles took hold of Wood's wrist and forced it around, pinning the weapon wielding hand ineffectually behind him. The stunned man could only react after his arm was being pressed unnaturally to his upper back. Giles had him firmly under control. He was trapped and quickly starting to panic as the demonic Watcher pulled his victim's torso backwards, slowly drawing Wood's neck toward his awaiting fangs.
"I'm afraid there is no time left for you," Giles spoke softly into Wood's ear as he leaned in and caught his first whiff of the scent of fear. It was intoxicating. "Please forgive me my artlessness," The vampire took in another forced breath, savoring the flavor. "I haven't had the time to perfect my technique like Spike. But I will try to make this as brief and painless as I possibly can." He trailed a finger down the vein he intended to pierce and smiled as the pulse quickened under the touch. "Crowley would have been so proud."
Wood felt a tear drizzle down his cheek as the vampire's fangs penetrate his skin. He wanted to fight back, to struggle but he hadn't the strength. Mr. Giles knew an easy target when he saw one and Wood didn't have the heart to go on. As his body instinctually spasmed under the shock of the attack, Robin felt Giles' arm wrap securely around him, steadying him as he fed. Oddly enough, the vampire had told the truth. After the initial puncture, his bite turned tender, almost hypnotic.
Giles felt Wood's legs buckle. The vampire's firm grasp moved more into a gentle embrace as his victim's body began to fail.
Robin thought it was as if the Watcher was trying to console him as he slowly faded away in the beast's overwhelming hug. He sank into the persuasive arms of the Watcher as he let the death dream take hold and he peacefully slipped away.
Giles stood motionless for a moment after Wood's body went limp, then he pulled back and let out an unearthly roar as the corpse fell to the cold floor. He felt glorious. Every cell tingled with false life as the stolen blood pulsed though his undead body. It was as if he was alive again but beyond life, he was immortal. Any ounce of pain he carried was gone and he felt no regrets for his actions though he knew he should. As he stared at Buffy's dead friend, he tried to consider the life he'd taken, tried to feel some hint of sympathy or sorrow. There was none, only recognition of his insatiable bloodlust and sense of entitlement. He was finally free of that miniscule thread of humanity he'd been punishing himself with and it felt good. And now he could focus on the one thing of which he was certain... he wanted more.
He bent down and took up the wooden stake the corpse still grasped uselessly in its hands. With a playful little toss, Giles caught the stake and slipped it into his pants pocket as he worked to strip the corpse of its clothes.
"You're a speck taller than me," he said to the body as he removed the shirt. "But beggars can't be choosers. Besides, I have a date tomorrow so I must look my best. Or at the very least, the best I can come by." He started to unbuckle Wood's belt and paused with a satisfied grin as he discovered the hidden stash of keys. "If you don't mind, I think I'll inspect your wardrobe. Find something more to my liking." He returned upright and ran his fingers through his tousled hair. "My little spell works to vanquish that troublesome invitation right from all types of dwellings, not just garages. Can't have such a little thing stop me from my fun now can I?" Giles stepped toward the door, kicking the ruins of crosses out of his path along the way. "You needn't bother getting up, I'll show myself out."
"I just don't think it's a good idea." Spike marched along side the quickly paced Slayer. "Me tagging along for a little visit to my attempted assassin. It's just asking for trouble."
"With all the shit that's hitting the Hellmouth fan right now, I decided I'm going to keep an eye on you until we find Giles and until I make sure Robin has gotten over his vendetta." Buffy reached the door and glanced back at Spike. "Besides, I want to make sure he's ok. He's basically a good guy. Besides, he can be a real help to us."
"If he isn't busy trying to stake me in the back," Spike growled.
"He's not the only one with an itchy staking hand when it comes to you..." Buffy trailed off when she noticed the door slightly ajar with light shimmering through the cracks. She immediate got a bad feeling.
"That's odd," Spike gave the Slayer a brief glance and stepped toward the door. "I think he's had company."
"Robin?" Buffy kicked open the door and froze at the site of the body. She rushed to her fallen friend. Spike knew it was too late. He could smell stench of death in the air. The vampire quietly examined the room as Buffy checked Wood's vitals.
"He's dead," she muttered.
"Wasn't me. I was with you all evening," Spike said defensively as he knelt down beside her to get a closer look at the corpse. He cocked his head to the side and inspected the wound.
"Well, it was one of the family cause he's sporting the usual signature," Buffy stood up and stepped toward the computer table. "Damn!" With one swift blow, the table split into two and the computer crashed to the floor.
Spike's head drooped forward regretfully as Buffy return to his side. She wasn't ready for the news and he wasn't ready to give it to her.
"Anything you can tell me? I have a serious craving for dusting some toothy demons right about now."
"Buffy..." he sighed with disappointment. "It was him."
"Him who?" she asked anxiously. "Point me at him!"
Spike stood up and gave her a grim look. "It was Giles."
Panic; it was the only clear thought she could decipher in her jumbled mind. Spike was wrong, that's all. He was still angry and clueless. How could he possibly know it was him? "It couldn't have been..." she looked down at the body and felt a shiver run up her spine. Some determined little internal voice hiding deep within her psyche argued with her heart as she refused to believe the truth. "He wouldn't..."
"Buffy, I can tell," Spike tried to be sympathetic and gentle but he never was good at playing it sweet and sensitive. "This wound was inflicted by someone new to the game." He could see the disgust in Buffy's face but she needed to hear it. "See the discolored flesh around the injury? It's a sign that the vampire tried to suck rather than drink. An experienced vampire would have dug into the meat, letting the blood pulse forth like a fountain, letting the heart do the work for you. An experienced vampire would have enjoyed the kill. The bite marks here are shallow, as if a desperate attempt to be gentle... merciful."
"No... I can't... " Buffy realized it was ridiculous for her to be shocked, it was what vampires did and she knew it. But the thought of Giles being a murderous beast wasn't easy to accept until she saw the scene before her, until Spike spelled it out for her.
"Buffy, this is Giles' first kill." Spike took hold of her arm and gave it a firm squeeze. "We need to find him fast. His next victim will be... be different, much more vicious."
"Are you sure it was him? I mean, Wood had a lot enemies?" Her voice squeaked under the strain of trying to talk.
"Experience, luv. I know what he's feeling, what he's going through. Your first taste of human blood changes everything... changes you." He stepped to the door and gestured outside. "Giles is a vampire. He will hunt and he will kill. Most likely targeting those close to him first. I did."
Buffy's eyes went wide. "The Potentials. They're outside... in the backyard. They're training with Kennedy and the others. I forgot to warn them to stay inside."
"Bloody hell!" Spike and Buffy took off running top speed down the street, hoping they weren't too late. Spike knew the cat would be let out of the bag soon enough if Giles made an appearance at the Slayer house. He only hoped Willow would be back soon so he could have one more chance at preventing a waste of manpower.
"How's about you gettin' us a refill luv?" Vi asked with a grin and tossed her empty water bottle to Dawn. "Seeing as how you seem... um... free at the moment?"
"How's about you go get it yourself you lazy..." Rona paused as Kennedy's disciplining finger gave her a warning point.
"Stop it, both of you!" Kennedy ordered and noticed a very gloomy Xander lying on his back, staring into the night sky.
"Are you going to make with the sad news already Xander? I'm sick of waiting for someone to spill the bad news beans here," Dawn walked over to him, giving Vi a stern glare along the way.
"Buffy told me to wait until Willow returned," he mumbled in response and Dawn decided she wasn't going to give up that easily. She knelt down and carefully sat down on her jacket, making sure to avoid staining her only surviving pair of boot-cut Levi's.
"Liquid refreshment time! Troops fall in!" Kennedy barked and smiled her approval as the Potentials followed her orders. "Forget it... go on in." She dismissed them with a wave and watched them head inside. As Chao-Ahn reached the doorway, Kennedy blocked the path with her arm and gave the girl a friendly smile. "Be a doll and grab the skirmish pads over by the gate." Chao-Ahn smiled awkwardly in response, obviously not understanding a word spoken to her. Anya stepped in to offer her interpretation skills.
"Pads!" She said slowly and motioned as if she was going to strike Chao-Ahn who flinched back in defense. "No. I'm not going to hit you. I'm just trying to communicate." Anya shook her head with frustration and started to point toward the gate. "Pads. Go get the pads."
"Anya, thanks but you're not helping." Kennedy grinned and tried to direct Chao-Ahn's attention away from the odd woman with a snap of her fingers. She motioned to her elbows and knees then drew an invisible shield she held in front of her. Chao-Ahn nodded excitedly and smiled as she rushed over toward the gate to retrieve the gear.
"I was going to do that next," Anya said in her defense.
"Yeah, bet you were." Kennedy glanced inside and Anya joined in on keeping a watchful eye on the small army ransacking the cupboards in the kitchen. "Where's Mr. Giles? Shouldn't he be here, using those highly trained language skills of his?"
"Giles... I can call him that because I've known him much longer than you," Anya explained. Kennedy couldn't help but smile at the strange woman's possesiveness toward her friends. "Giles has a talent for knowing only useless dead languages and never being around until things get really dismal. He'll show up when we're all about to die a horribly painful death. Don't worry," Anya offered cheerfully.
"What, me worry?" She mumbled and went inside with Anya following.
Dawn heard a rustle of leaves and glanced over at the gate. The gate creaked in the wind as it swung forward and back. There was no sign of Chao-Ahn. Dawn assumed she'd just stepped out front for a quick diversion.
"I'm going to go keep an eye on our non-English speaking exchange student type. But when I get back, you're so going to fill me in on the tight-lipped info buddy!" She struggled to her feet and walked over to the fence. As she reached the swaying gate, she could have sworn she saw a glimpse of a shadow fly across the street and disappear into the night. "Chao-Ahn?" She yelled and only heard a faint, menacing cackle answering her on the breeze. "Xander, she's gone!"
"How could you lose her?" Buffy paced frantically across the living room floor.
"It was only for a second. She was still on the property." Kennedy saw Spike motion for her to give up on her defensive excuses. He knew it was a waste of breath.
"It's not her fault, Buffy," he defended softly.
"No!" She shot him a furious glare. "It's yours!" She started to pace again.
"How's it Mr. Spike's fault?" Amanda asked.
"That's the last time I leave you in charge of them, " Buffy scolded Kennedy. "From now on you are to remain inside unless you're with me. That means all of you. " Buffy ordered. "Got it?"
Dawn sighed, puzzled. "Buffy, how are they supposed to..."
"Listen to Buffy!" Xander said sternly and Buffy paused with a grateful look to him. He knew the dangers, but had no clue the degree of danger they were all in. She hated keeping the reality of the situation from him but she had to for now. "It's way too risky now. We can't afford to lose anyone else... to lose..." he swallowed hard and left the room, trying desperately to avoid the curious stares of the others.
"Spike and I are going to search for her. Dawn, give Andrew a hand in the kitchen. Get everyone settled in for the long haul inside. Put together a grocery list for necessities," Buffy marched to the front door.
"What about Giles? Shouldn't we try to get a hold of him?" Dawn asked.
Spike's face fell with the innocent question. Why didn't she tell them? They were in much more danger not knowing. Buffy bit her lip, trying to keep her face firm and unreadable. "Just do what I say. We'll report back every hour."
"Weapons," Spike suggested and Buffy nodded.
"I'll grab some things. Make yourself useful. Go see if you can catch her scent or something," she growled and started up the stairs. Spike was hurt by the tone of her remark, treating him like some search and rescue dog. He watched her head up the stairs as he blindly opened the front door.
Amanda's frenzied, high pitched shriek made Spike whip around in defense and Buffy rushed back down the stairs, coming to a swift halt as everyone finally saw what had set the young Potential off. The bloodied and beaten body of Chao-Ahn was hanging just outside the doorway, strung up with what looked like blood-soaked rope. On further examination, Spike realized it wasn't rope at all but a mix of gore, shredded workout padding, and viscera. Buffy immediately moved to block the view of the young victim and motioned toward the basement.
"Dawn, take everyone downstairs. Now!" Buffy barely choked out the order.
"NOW!" Spike yelled and Xander hurried to get the panicking young ladies away from the gruesome scene.
The vampire returned his attention to the body. She was split cleanly up the middle and he could see the cavity seemed cleaned out, hollowed. It was a grisly sight, even by his standards. How quickly Giles had graduated from his merciful phase, adopting the inevitable malevolence of the hunt and shameless enthusiasm. He'd always known there was darkness buried behind the Watcher's mild exterior but this was beyond his expectations. It was also disquieting to Spike how Giles hadn't attempted to take someone closer to him first. He was on his second kill and neither victim really meant anything more to him than a forgotten duty.
"Is that...." Buffy whispered, unable to move or look away from the ghastly decoration. "Is that a note?"
Spike noticed the blood-soaked paper pinned purposefully to the meaty flesh of her thumb. He removed the pin and watched as droplets of blood fell to the steps below. As he unfolded the note, Spike felt his jaw tense under the strain of holding back his emotional reaction to the menacing message. The simple words written gave him an unfortunate sense of satisfaction.
"W-what does it s-say?" Buffy whispered nervously.
Spike didn't want to read it; it only confirmed his fears of what Giles was doing.
"Spike? Please," she urged breathlessly and took a step towards him.
"A gift for my miracle, thinking of you. Always, G." Spike looked down at her face, trying to see her reaction and was stunned by the lack of any. "Buffy? Are you alright?"
"The bastard is taking everything away," she said coldly.
"I don't understand." Spike placed a gentle hand on her arm.
"He's trying to kill him, Spike." Buffy's expression began to worry him. She didn't seem there, didn't seem coherent.
"He's trying to kill Giles," she spoke softly as a tear welled in the corner of her eye.
"Buffy, Giles is dead," he said slowly, trying to make sure she understood.
"No," she shook her head, frustrated by his lack of understanding. "He's killing Giles... in here," she pounded her fist against her chest. "And in here," She motioned to her head. "In my heart and mind... that beast is killing Giles. Destroying my memories of him. Replacing them with these... this." She pointed at the remains of the young lady swaying in the doorway.
"You're right. He's trying to get to you Buffy," Spike agreed.
"I can't let him." She ran a finger long the dead girl's face and stumbled back, covering her mouth, masking the gasp she couldn't hold back. "I can't let that creature take him away."
"I will find him and I will stop him. I promise." Spike pulled her into his arms, sadly accepting the small triumph over her stubbornness as she tearfully nuzzled into his neck.