Greater Good part 5/27: Out of the Mouths of Babes
Buffy looked on with demented pleasure as Spike took another beating from the gang of potentials. They were getting better, growing more ferocious with every lesson. But it was Spike's pain that gave her the most satisfaction. She'd known he was lying to her about the events leading up to Giles' death. Watching him take blow after blow from the potentials gave Buffy just enough provisional vengeance to satisfy her for the moment. But she also felt a tinge of something else and it troubled her. Spike was right, they did need all the help they could get. And even though it burned fury within her, she wondered if bringing Giles home would be the best course of action.
Kennedy stepped up to Buffy and gave her a quick nod of approval. "They're looking good. Givin' Spike a good run at least."
"Yeah," Buffy said flatly, looking around for the non-potentials. It suddenly struck her as odd how the group had suddenly broken into two categories in her mind, potentials and non-potentials. Had she grown so coldhearted and narrow-focused as to forget her friends? In truth, she had but there was a battle coming and she was the only thing keeping these girls alive.
"That's it! I bloody well give up." Spike pushed away from the crowd of young ladies attacking him and wave them off. "Even undead things need a bit of rest."
"Fine. Let's go. We'll pick this back up tomorrow," Buffy ordered.
"Easy for you to say," Spike grumbled and lit up a smoke. The potentials started towards the cemetery exit with Andrew following faithfully along until he noticed Anya cleaning up the gear. He decided to play it gentlemanly and help out.
"Can we order pizza? And maybe a pay-per-view movie?" Andrew asked. "Or maybe we could watch Dr. Who. They're showing a marathon tonight."
"Pizza does sound good," Anya agreed as she tossed some of the smaller, more manageable weapons in the bag. "But I'd prefer watching the Disney Channel. They're showing the directors cut of The Little Mermaid tonight."
"Directors cut?" Andrew snorted. "Jasmine could kick Ariel's ass!" Andrew taunted as he aided the ex-vengeance demon in bagging up the gear.
"She could not. Jasmine would drown. Besides, who asked you?" Anya said defensively.
"You didn't have to ask. It's a well known fact..."
"Fact? What facts?" Anya grew more aggravated.
"Stop while you're ahead, Anya," Xander suggested and stepped out from behind an enlarged tombstone.
"What do you know Harris, you probably want to watch the Playboy channel," Anya said irately and continued with the task at hand. Xander decided he was in no mood to argue with her and focused his attentions on the secretive Slayer.
"When Willow gets back..." Xander strolled over to Buffy, "...we'll have her try a locator spell. See if she can narrow in on the killer." Xander's eyes were determination. Buffy could see he'd aged years from the recent days events.
"Xander, stop pushing. Spike and I will handle it," she urged and moved on after the potentials.
"When?" Xander huffed. "Who else has to die before you..."
"Don't you dare..." Buffy stormed toward her old friend and stopped short when she saw his troubled face. "Things are bad, Xander. They are... are much worse than you know. I'm trying to protect you."
"From what, Buffy? Don't I have a right to know what's going on? Doesn't Dawn?"
"No!" Spike walked up and stepped protectively between the quarrelling friends. "Not until Buffy says. Got it?"
"I don't know what's going on between you two, but I don't like it. And I'll be damned if I'm going to sit back and watch my friends get picked off one by one." Xander fumed, offering a final glare to each before he marched off down the street, heading back toward the house.
"He's right you know," Spike looked at Buffy. "They all deserve to know."
"I'll tell them when we get to the house," she said quietly, quickening her pace to catch up with the others.
The gang spilled into the house and tiredly claimed the various chairs and couches available to them. Xander called out for Dawn and started to search the lower level rooms for the younger Summers. Buffy and Spike stumbled in behind Andrew and Anya who were still bickering over the evenings entertainment choices.
"Dawn?" Xander's voice became more urgent and Buffy began to worry with the absence of response.
"I'll check upstairs," she said and sprang up the stairway, swearing she would kill Dawn if she'd snuck over to Janice's house again. Labored sobs came from behind Dawn's bedroom door and Buffy hurried to open it. As the door swung back revealing the darkened space, Buffy's worried gaze fell on Dawn who cowered in a corner, trembling uncontrollably in a fetal position.
"Dawn? Are you ok? What happened?" Buffy rushed to her side. Dawn recoiled at her touch, frantically waving her arms to avoid the contact. Buffy was unfazed by the motion and continued to make sure her sister was uninjured. "Dawn, tell me what happened."
The young woman was inconsolable, pushing her sister away, trying desperately to escape any attention.
"Dawn, tell me what happened," Buffy pleaded. "Why won't you talk to me?"
"She can't," Spike's voice made Dawn flinch then curl up tighter within her own shaky arms. He stepped in the room with a distraught look drawn along his chiseled features.
"What do you mean?" Buffy peeked at the vampire then returned her concerned stare back to her uncooperative sister. That's when she noticed the blood trickling from the corners of Dawn's mouth.
"Oh my god. What happened?" Xander rushed in and Dawn scurried away from the growing crowd, trying to escape to her closet. Spike stopped her from closing herself in and gently knelt down beside her.
"It was him, wasn't it?" He asked delicately and Dawn's eyes grew wide with tears as she nodded frightfully. She held out her quivering hand, grasping a tear and blood soaked, crumpled bit of paper. Spike carefully took it from her, keeping the physical contact to a minimum. He already knew what had happened, smelling the alluring scent of blood and more disturbing, the scent of Giles permeating her. With a quick glimpse of the note, he swallowed hard and handed it over to Buffy.
"What happened? Who did this?" Xander's anxious eyes danced between Buffy and Spike as they seemed to hold some inaudible conversation between them.
Buffy examined the page and took a moment to realize what it meant. Again, the scroll was carefully written, short and to the point. It simply stated "Out of the mouths of babes. See you soon. G." Her glossy gaze fell back to Dawn as the note slipped from her fingers, delicately twirling to the floor.
"Dawn...." Buffy wgasped, unable to clearly voice her words. "What did Giles do to you?"
Xander's face went sickly white and it all fell into place. Giles' mysterious death, the inaccessible details of his passing, the secrets, the strange behavior, the attacks... it was him but not him. Xander somehow knew all along what it had meant but was unwilling to believe his instincts. It was one of his deepest fears come true. Giles had been turned and Buffy was trying to protect him and the others from the truth. He choked back his cry, "What did Giles do to her?"
Tears spilled down Dawn's cheeks as she attempted to wipe the blood streaming from her lips. She noticed the others watching her and weakly covered her face, trying to screen them from the sight of her and trying to protect herself from their gaze.
"He took her tongue," Spike growled with bitter loathing.
"Giles!" Buffy's roar echoed on the gusty wind as she ran through the desolate streets.
"Buffy, this is exactly what he wants," Spike yelled as he hurried after her. "He's baiting you."
"GILES!" Her voice cracked under the strain of her scream. She paused only a moment to listen for a response. "Show yourself, you coward!"
"This is not the way..."
"Shut up!" Buffy yelled back to Spike. "Giles!" she continued her screams into the darkness, cursing the shadows for harboring the monster she hunted. This time, the northern cemetery seemed all to fitting place for a visit. It was the same cemetery where she'd had her falling out with Giles and she just knew he would be there if he was anywhere to be found.
"Buffy, please stop this. Dawn needs you right now." Spike rushed up to stop her. She whipped around, planting a crushing uppercut to the concerned vampire's chin and sending him flailing across the green.
"Go away!" She rumbled. "Giles!" Her words were scratchy and faint, barely audible due to her straining vocal chords. She'd screamed out every bit of strength, calling out the demon that tortured her through hurting her family and friends.
"I'm not leaving you!" Spike insisted and struggled to his feet, returning timidly at her side.
"That much is certain," the familiar voice came from the shadows of a mausoleum. Buffy stopped cold, staring into the darkness for the face of her tormentor.
"Giles," her throat choked down her furious tears as his profile shaped out of the shadows.
"I gather you received my message?" Giles moved out into the dim light and Buffy found herself unable to move, unable to act. For all the anger that had driven her and all the revenge she sought, his mild features instantly made her resolve weak. He looked just as he had the last night she seen him. He looked like Giles. "Adolescents can be so unreliable in delivering important correspondence. But then again... Dawn is so mature for her age."
"You... you bastard," Buffy sobbed.
"You've been a busy one." Spike moved forward, protectively taking a stand between the approaching beast and the Slayer.
"Well, I strive to please." Giles smiled playfully and Spike found the expression eerily familiar. Behind those mild and caring eyes lay a devil more wicked than he'd seen since his own fall from grace.
"You've done me proud, Rupert. Come along now and let us give you back your little soul."
"No! He dies!" Buffy charged forward, taking Spike completely by surprise as she pushed him out of her path.
"Buffy... we need him!" Spike rushed to stop her but it was too late. She attacked Giles with a viciousness he'd never seen from her before. Spike stood silently watching, stunned to see Giles out maneuver her every attack. He moved swiftly out of the way of every punch and every kick. A lifetime of street fighting and Watcher's council training rolled into one ferocious killing machine, now only improved by the absence of a conscience.
"He says you need me, Buffy." Giles grinned confidently as he pulled her into a tight embrace and held her there, trapped within his arms as his gaze penetrated her. "Tell me you need me." The sensual tone of Giles' words sent a shiver up Spike's undead frame and he felt the overwhelming need to strike out, to teach the rude beast some manners. He rushed towards the struggling duo and took hold of Giles' arm, tearing him from his death grip of the emotionally overwhelmed Slayer.
"Don't push me, Rupert. Play nice or I'll be forced to punish you." Spike started to circle around and Giles chuckled with satisfaction at the threatening banter.
"You think that wise, seeing as how your last attempt at chastisement landed a few innocents six feet under? With results like that, I would think you'd avoid any further disciplining." Giles' face finally vamped and Spike swore he felt his heart beat for the first time since his rebirth. It was strangely exciting and disturbing to witness the transformation of such a man. He heard a faint gasp escape Buffy's trembling lips as he moved to protect her again.
"I haven't even begun to punish you," Spike snarled.
Giles sneered as Spike's face deformed, joining in on the beastly confrontation. "This should be interesting."
The two monsters charged toward one another with uncompromising force. When their bodies met, the collision sounded over the hills, echoing off the tombstones speckling the landscape. Fists swung wildly and claws tore and they both fell back, recollecting themselves for another attack as they sized up each other.
"I've always wanted to dance with you, Rupert."
"Pity, I've not had the same impulse. My intentions were to woo Buffy. But seeing as though she seems somewhat indisposed of at the moment, I'll have to settle for what I can get."
Spike caught a glimpse of Buffy, immobile and withdrawn, stationary to her spot on the dampened grass. He'd known she wasn't ready to face Giles. It was one thing to face someone like Angel who she'd come to accept the beast within. Buffy only knew Giles as a friend and a teacher. To witness the corruption of a man she'd once held so dear was much too difficult, especially with the added responsibility of protecting the potentials from the very man who she'd come to trust so implicitly over the years. "You aren't going near her."
"You'd steal her away from me again, wouldn't you. Why not, you've stripped me of everything else." Giles' face returned to his recognizable mild features as he stopped his advance and stood his ground, unwilling to continue with the brawl.
"You can be with her again, Giles. Come with us." Though Spike knew the request was worthless, he felt he had to try. Something ringing in Giles' voice made him wonder what emotions lay hidden beneath his boastful rage. After all, the memories and the experiences of the man remained even though the soul was lost.
"Hey, G. Looks like you could use a little help."
Spike never saw the kick; he was leveled before he had a chance.
"Faith, what a pleasant surprise." Giles smiled warmly as the shady Slayer took up position to support the Watcher. "Impeccable timing."
"Never thought I'd hear that coming from you." She strutted up to Spike and landed another devastating kick to his face, sending the vampire crashing through a nearby tombstone. "What's up with B? She's lookin' a bit spooked?"
"Spike caught her off guard, she's taking a breather. I'll just go give her a hand." Giles chuckled to himself and headed toward the fallen Slayer.
"No..." Spike moaned and struggled to get back to his feet. "Stop him..."
"I'll take care of bleach boy, here. You go work the first aid with B and we'll meet back up at the old house." Faith suggested as she punched the dazed vampire again, watching proudly as his face slammed clumsily into the grass. "Red's waiting for ya. Been talking my ear off the whole trip back."
"Faith, I'm glad to have you back," Giles offered sincerely as he slammed his elbow into Buffy's face, knocking her out cold just out of view of the darker Slayer.
"Again with the props. Thanks G. Just here to help." She took a quick glance at the bloodied vampire straining to get up then watched enviously as Giles took Buffy into his sturdy arms, cradling her tenderly against his chest. Faith only hoped to find someone so protective and caring as him someday. If she played her cards right, maybe Giles would offer her a second chance and train her. Especially now that relations sounded so strained between Slayer and Watcher.
"He's a vampire," Spike coughed out and swiped at Faith's legs, watching as she fell backwards to the ground.
"You're a vampire." She countered with a swift punch. "He's a Watcher." Another kick and Spike blocked it, following through the motion with an elbow to her midsection.
"I'm a good vampire." Spike landed a vicious uppercut. "Giles is a bad vampire, you bloody cow." He searched the landscape for the escaping beast and his prisoner. He spotted the shadows of the retreating figures a half mile within the paralleling woods and took off after them.
"Hey, you aren't standing me up, fang boy." Faith followed.
Spike dodged and weaved, making his way toward Giles as Faith followed, hot on his trail. He rounded a corner and stumbled to a halt when he found Giles standing motionless before him with the unconscious Slayer limp in his arms.
"Enough of this. It's been fun, Spike." Giles smiled. Faith jogged up beside Spike and cocked her head curiously as Giles' face transformed to reveal the beast once more. "Thank you, Faith. I couldn't have done it without you." In a flash of light, they were gone.
"Fuck!" Spike screamed defiantly to the darkness.
"Red said things had changed around here," Faith mumbled uncomfortably, "But I'm guessing I've missed out on a few details?"