Greater Good part 6/27: Gifts
"My, my, my... how utterly cozy this is," the eternally mocking masculine voice came from the shadows of the loft and Giles chose to ignore it, continuing on with his preparations.
"I'm sure Buffy will appreciate those little details too; the polished chain, the buffed-up restraints. It will make this engagement an evening to remember."
Giles couldn't resist a peek of his old friend as he descended the stairs. Ethan hadn't aged a day, looking just like he had when Giles watched with gleeful enthusiasm as the Initiative carted him off like so much manure. But this wasn't his old friend and occasional enemy, it was the First calling on him once more to do it's bidding.
"I don't particularly care for an audience." Giles finished securing the bolts to the wall and glanced over at the unconscious Slayer sprawled across the tasteless choice for a leather couch. He felt a tinge of guilt forcing her to hold up in such a god awfully decorated apartment, even if it did hold so many memories.
"Don't worry. She'll be out for hours. That curious love potion of yours is doing a number on her." Ethan playfully hopped over the back of the couch and took a seat beside the sleeping beauty.
"Go away." Giles reached over and placed his chilled fingers along her neck, noting Buffy's pulse. It was strong and consistent. After a moment, he brushed a stray lock from her forehead and returned to his arranging.
"Why are you playing these games Ripper? You want her so take her. She's yours."
"She's not mine to have."
"She could be. You could see to it that she would never leave your side." Ethan motioned towards Buffy. "She'll die anyway. You may as well have at her while you can, Ripper."
"Ethan, you are as much of a pig in death as you were in life," Giles snarled. "What's your story anyway? That pretty ass of yours get you into a bit of a mess with the prison welcoming committee?"
"I'm touched you remember my ass, Ripper. Made quite an impression I see. Or should I say it was you who made an impression on me?" The phony Ethan stood back up and began to stroll around the apartment, irritated he had to provide the story of his death. "If you must know, there was a poorly executed raid, an inadvertent fire, and a shortage of electricity to unlock the magnetically sealed cells. Only one wing of the facility was destroyed but unfortunately for yours truly, it was home sweet home for little ol' moi."
"Pity. Well... as long as you died an extremely painful death. That's all that counts, mate." Giles grinned but there was a hint of sadness in his eyes.
"Ripper, the Slayer will be dealt with. I'm simply offering you the choice of whether she dies by my hand..." Ethan smiled self-assuredly, "... Or by yours."
"You don't have any hands," Giles sneered.
"Oh... right.By yours then. Doesn't matter to me, as long as she's out of my way. Kill her and be done with it." Ethan saw a flicker of anger in Giles' eyes and chuckled at his old friend. "You can't. Can you?"
"Leave us." Giles tried to ignore the pest and gathered together the ingredients he required for the spell.
"She hates you. You must know that. You've always been useless to her, a nuisance. She didn't shed one tear for your passing. Instead, she spent the night in the arms of her groupie, Spike. And you just know she thanked him all proper like for getting you out of her pretty hair. Can't you smell him all over her, Ripper?"
Giles closed his eyes in a futile attempt to disregard the spirit but with a slight flare of his nostrils he picked up on the unmistakable scent. He took in another deep breath, seeking out any hint of Spike on Buffy. The vampire was there, staining her.
The counterfeit Ethan could see the fury building up, threatening to boil over with the next word. But that anger shouldn't be wasted on him, it was intended for the Slayer. "Just thought you should hear it from a real friend."
"Real friend? I think can do without friends like you!" Giles stared down at Buffy, unable to rid himself of Spike's maddening odor.
Ethan directed an accusatory finger toward the unconscious Slayer.
"You do hate me, don't you?" he asked softly and swore he heard her faint voice answer yes. "No matter. I'll soon give you something to hate me for."
The sun crept up over the horizon and the subtle orange light shimmered through the large window of the living room. The group was hushed, decorated with gloomy faces and thick with unspoken doubts as the potentials and Willow tried to absorb the grisly news. Spike lit up another cigarette and continued to pace the room, impatiently awaiting any suggestions on the next course of action. Dawn remained in the shadows, unwilling to give anyone a clear view of her indiscernible injury. They'd decided not to tell the Potentials what had happened to her, just saying Dawn was traumatized and could no longer speak. No one wanted to admit that it had been Giles. No one wanted to remember him that way.
The visit to the emergency room had been a trying experience. Xander had worked his best to explain away the odd injury but he knew it was accepted with a cynical ear. The Scooby gang members had grown accustomed to creating believable cover stories for the various injuries that had required treatment. But it was much more difficult to manage when the victim was Dawn. And it was especially hard due to the fact she would never be able to verbally tell anyone what exactly happened that night. Everyone was left to speculation and the scene of the crime hadn't painted a pretty picture. But that was all behind them. What Xander needed to do now was be there for the wounded young lady. And now, he was hesitant to let her out of his sight, even for a second.
Willow's sympathetic stare kept falling on the young victim's withdrawn face. Dawn was hurt much more deeply than her physical wounds. Her heart was marred by the betrayal. And though the younger Summers would never utter another word, her pain screamed out with every sigh and stare.
"Giles is a vampire?" Willow's tearful eyes begged for another explanation, anything. She'd somehow known he was gone, sensed it even from miles away. The inexplicable connection she'd had with him was extinguished days ago but she didn't understand her detached feelings until the moment she'd been told the news. Giles was not only dead but had been turned, a far more heartrending end for a man that had fought so bravely and worked so selflessly to protect others from the exact ordeal he was forced to face. Besides that, Willow knew what malevolence he was capable of. Not because Giles had ever exposed such a dark side before, she knew from experience and understood the evil that lay dormant within everyone, no matter how peace-loving and gentle.
"We've been over this a dozen bloody times," Spike huffed anxiously. "Giles is a vampire, but you can bring him back, Red. Give him the Angel treatment. Curse his sorry ass back to us," Spike spoke hurriedly, obviously eager to prevent what horrors Giles had in store for Buffy.
"How... when..." Pointless questions, but Willow needed more, needed something to help her understand the unfairness of it all. She started to cry and Xander felt himself begin to lose his composure. Willow often had that affect on him, her tears where contagious, as was her laughter.
"Look, thanks to Slayer the Sequel here, Buffy is in danger. If we don't find Giles and stop him we will be out one champion and left to face the First with nothing but... nothing but you."
"Will, Can you cook up a locator spell?" Xander asked timidly. He knew she was still wary of using her talents to their fullest but such serious scenarios definitely called for serious action.
"I can try," she responded nervously and Anya noticed her apprehension.
"I'm not too familiar with spells but I'll help the best I can." She nodded to Willow who smiled bashfully at the offer.
"Skip the search. Do the curse." Spike puffed away.
"We don't know where he is," Willow explained, "I need at least a vague idea where he's located for the curse to work... for his soul to find him."
"What can I do? Tell me what to do," Spike was beside himself with helplessness.
"Protect Dawn and the potentials. Let Xander, Anya and I do what we do best."
"What if that's not enough?"
"Then we might be facing a very deadly couple rather than a single," Xander warned sullenly. "And if that happens, we're most likely done for."
"Forget that!" Spike stormed to the door and paused. "I've gotta hunch where the bastard might be." He tugged his coat up over his head and charged outside into the dawn. Faith gave Willow a nervous glance.
"You think he knows something?" Faith asked.
"Bet on it!" Xander's gut churned fury at the question. He just knew Spike was involved with the mess somehow but he couldn't take any risks. Not until they got Buffy back.
Willow handed over a tarnished silver medallion and gave Faith a subtle nod. "Follow him. This charm will act like a beacon. If you find Giles and Buffy, kiss the stone in the center and I'll know where you are. Then I can perform the re-souling spell."
"You gotta be kiddin me? Kissing a rock?" Faith snickered and Willow shrugged.
"Hey, that's the mystical arts for ya."
"Okay, so lucky day, we find the pair. What if Giles is on the verge of taking B out?" It was a tough question but all the Scoobies were wondering the same thing. They understood what Spike wanted to do and though the idea of another vampire on the job seemed disheartening to say the least, no one wanted to sacrifice a chance to bring the Watcher home.
"Would Mr. Giles do that?" Amanda asked timidly. "I mean... could he kill Buffy?"
"Yeah, he's still Mr. Giles right? He's still a Watcher... just... he's like Spike now, right?" Rona also wanted clarification on the subject. They hadn't known anyone turned before and Spike seemed all right, though weird and gloomy.
"He's not like Spike!" Xander said defensively. "He's..." he paused, unable to explain and looked over at Willow who could understand with his feelings.
"Giles has no soul, no conscience. He's a demon and he will kill... has killed," she finished softly.
"Chao-Ahn," Amanda gasped and the Potentials murmured nervously amongst themselves with the realization that it had been Giles who took the young girl's life so inhumanly.
"So if he's making with the toothy gruesomes I should dust him?" Faith waited for her answer.
A motion came from the shadowy corner of the room and all eyes fell on Dawn as she excitedly scribbled on her small dry erase whiteboard. After quickly scrawling her message, she held up the board and pointed sternly at the silent words it displayed. It simply said "Bring him back ALIVE!"
The room fell quiet once more.
"Um... but I thought vampires were already dead, so how could you bring him back alive? I mean, he's just a reanimated corpse, right? Like in that movie..." Andrew paused when he noticed all the annoyed glares in response.
"Got it, pop tart! I'll do my best." Faith gave Dawn a sympathetic smile and took off after Spike.
Willow found herself immensely relieved to have the backup Slayer there. Xander walked over to Dawn and wrapped a protective arm over her shoulder, giving her an affectionate squeeze.
"I want him back too," he said and noticed Dawn's expression was cold and emotionless, not sharing his enthusiasm. She awkwardly pulled away and departed into the kitchen as Willow and Xander exchanged worried looks. Why was she so adamant to have him back? Something wasn't right. They would have to keep an eye on her.
"Is this a good idea?" Kennedy whispered to Willow as worry riddled her forehead.
"I don't know. We just... we have to try," Willow answered warily, almost asking for approval.
"Then we're in." Kennedy gave her a supportive smile and returned to the Potentials.
"Get the stuff ready. We may not have alot of time if..." Willow paused and decided to rephrase, "when... when Faith finds them."
"I'm on it. You otta know the words by heart now with all the demand for this soul curse lately."
"I do know it. I'm just worried about inflicting it on someone like..."
"Like Giles, I know. I thought the same thing."
"I mean, how's he gonna react. How's he gonna deal with it?"
"I don't know. I guess there's only one way to find out," Xander said simply and walked out the door to gather up the necessary ingredients. Willow only wished she could be as sure as him.
Buffy woke to an eerily familiar sight. Though the furnishings had changed to a more modern feel and there was the absence of the customary old musty book smell, she recognized the layout of the room. It was Giles' old apartment. It was a surprisingly stupid move to bring her there. The others were sure to find her in such an obvious location. Perhaps that's what he intended. She tried to move but found her hands shackled and chained to a bolt firmly seeded in the wall and accompanying bookcases. Giles wasn't taking any chances. He wanted her immobile.
"Odd, isn't it." He stepped into her view and flashed a gentle smile. "I spend my first six years imprisoned here complaining about this place only to return when I have no need to." He moved closer, looking her up and down with inquisitively. "Something keeps me here... holds me here. I suspect that lure might come from you." Their eyes met and Buffy felt her heart stop in that instant.
It looked like Giles. All the features were there, the kindly mild green eyes and gentle smile, the windswept peppered brown and gray curls teasing his forehead, the welcoming creases of concern and compassion. It made for a complete picture, a believable charade minus one small detail. The lack of glasses only helped to remind Buffy that this was nothing more than a beast.
"Giles, I'm sorry." She cursed herself for calling him by that name. It wasn't Giles and it was the first and only time she would allow herself to apologize for what happened. It was useless to express her regrets to the monster. Giles was gone and all that remained was just another demon. She had to remember that above all else. Buffy's eyes were suddenly struggling to focus. The blow to her head had affected her more than she'd realized. She needed time to recover, emotionally and physically.
"Sorry? Sure you are." Giles could see right through her obligatory apology. He combed away a strand of her hair, delicately curling it behind her ear. "I'm glad you're awake. I wouldn't enjoy this as much if you had remained comatose."
"What are you doing? What do you want from me?" Buffy's head pounded as her broken nose pulsed alive with the sensation of her Slayer healing working to repair her.
Giles paused before the chained Slayer and leaned in, almost touching her mouth with his smiling lips. "Pain," he sneered. "Nothing less than your absolute and unconstrained agony singing to me."
Buffy felt her breath catch at the dangerous tone of his voice. "Oh that..." she forced a grin and felt her head swim with pain. "Take a number."
"Good girl." Giles chuckled with pride at her determination and glided a finger along her face, tracing the contour of her cheek down to her chin. "Such undying spirit." He leaned in again."Let's see what I can do about that."
"Do your worst." Buffy sighed, feeling faint and almost wishing to black out again.
"Actually, I want you to do your worst." He stepped past her and as he moved away, glided his fingertips along her shoulder, down her right arm and intertwined his fingers with hers. With his free hand, he pulled out an object from his pants pocket and examined it. It was a small hypodermic needle filled with a mysterious clear liquid. He removed the protective cap with his teeth and, following with tradition, tapped the tube with his finger, sending any rogue air bubbles to the tip of the needle. He carefully repositioned the hypodermic between his fingers and squeezed out a couple drops. "You have such lovely hands. Powerful yet beautiful."
"All the more to bash your face in." Buffy felt panic at the sight of the needle. She hated needles. She couldn't even watch medical dramas due to the off chance at catching a glimpse of one. As he stuck her with it, she felt nauseated by the appalling sight. Then she felt dizzy from whatever he was administering to her. Her legs were immediately numb and weak, slowly giving out under her as her arms began to carry more and more of the burden of her weight. Then her sight blurred and she was overtaken by a strange sense of calm.
Giles saw the serum taking effect as he removed the needle and tossed it aside with a confident smile. "Angel spent hours on my hand, twisting and bending the fingers until they would just snap, much like dry twigs. I never fully regained functionality. But bones do mend, especially when you are a Slayer."
"As much as I'm really enjoying this trip down memory lane, are you coming around to a point anytime soon?" Buffy's speech was slurring and she couldn't clear her mind of the haze that was slowly settling in.
"You've grown so competent with the tools of your trade. So able to manipulate a variety of deadly weapons." He leaned against the wall and tenderly stroked her right hand, caressing it gently as he spoke. With a snarl, his face distorted to the monster, smiling with delight when Buffy's eyes grew wide with dread. "And due to your proficiency, you've caught the interest of certain evils who would prefer you out of the way."
"Why not just kill me? That's what you want, right?" Buffy mumbled sloppily. "That's what all evil things want, isn't it?"
She flinched uncomfortably as the vampire nuzzled her trembling hand to the cold skin of his cheek. After placing a deceptively gentle kiss on the back of her hand, he took hold of her wrist and held her small hand firm and still.
"I would prefer to avoid such measures. But I'm afraid I do have something else in mind." The vampire stared into the glossy eyes of his hostage, trying to see her thoughts, read her heart. She wasn't revealing a single thing.
"It's for your own good," Giles whispered.
Buffy watched in horror as he took her delicate fingers within his mouth and bit down, burying his razor sharp teeth into her skin. She cringed at the initial jab of pain but soon felt confident she could outlast it, outlast him. Whatever drug he'd given her was kicking in and beginning to sufficiently block the pain.
But then the vampire began to grind and crush, working his way through, just at the knuckles. Buffy screamed in agony as his fangs gnawed through her flesh. Even with the drug coursing through her, the pain was excruciating and her body wrenched with spasms, instinctually trying to flee from the danger but Giles' snare was solid. All she could do was listen to the revolting sound of muscles shredding and joints ripping. She screwed her eyes shut, unable to watch as he tore through her. Her legs buckled under her and she drooped forward on the verge of unconsciousness and shock. There was a sickening popping noise and then everything was silent and calm.
There was no pain, no feeling. Buffy's head pulsed and swirled, suffering from some shock-induced trance intermixing with the mysterious drug. She strained to open her sluggish eyes, looking over to view the demon as it pulled back, it's face sodden with blood and gore as a wicked smile revealed his blood-drenched fangs. Confused from her traumatized stupor, she looked expectantly at her hand and saw the dripping, pulpy remains of two of her fingers. He'd stolen her trigger finger and her thumb. She looked back to the beast and saw him spit out the chunks of meat and bone as he approached her once again. Buffy couldn't prevent her inappropriate chuckle from his crude display.
"Yes, that should do nicely." The beast faded, hiding behind the mask of Giles and Buffy found herself wishing for the demon to return. "Angel would approve, I'm sure."
"Is... that... all you've got?" Buffy whispered between labored breaths.
"Haven't even begun, luv." Giles leaned in and Buffy could smell the sickly sweet scent of her own blood as he placed a tender kiss on her lips, marking her with the still warm ruby fluid coating his mouth. He pulled back leisurely. A string of drool and blood stretched between their lips, connecting them as he caressed her cheek, painting her clammy, pale skin with his bloodied fingers. Her lips quivered with the touch of his thick, cold digit and she tried to turn away as he dipped the tip into her mouth.
"Your taste is exquisite," his sensually low tone hummed to her as he fed her droplets of own blood to her. She choked on the intruding juice and attempted to spit it out.
"Why do you hate me?" She whimpered, wanting so badly to wipe the blood clean from her mouth as well as clean her memory of the monster's vile intimacy. But she was left to suffer.
"I don't hate you, Buffy." Giles gently combed his crimson fingers through her blonde strands as he admired her tormented beauty. "Quite the opposite, I assure you."
"How... how can you do this? Why do this to me?"
He snickered, still licking his lips clean to taste the lingering flavor of her. He took out a first aid kit and began to clean and bandage the fresh wound.
"This modest nibble is a gift, Buffy. I will be giving you many more. My generosity has no end." He carefully inspected his work, impressed by how easily he'd accomplished the task. "It serves two purposes. One... to handicap you, preventing any foolish scuffles you may attempt as we discuss things. Two... to take you out of the game and therefore out of the crosshairs of the First's assassins."
"Nothing you do will stop me. I will continue to fight," Buffy winced.
"This war isn't yours to wage. Not any longer. I'll see to that." Giles grinned as he finished wrapping the bandage, finalizing his effort with a good-natured kiss to her palm.
"You're letting me live?"
"For the moment. I do enjoy you, Buffy. You make my life..." he paused and grinned at his slip of the tongue, "...my death tolerable."