Greater Good part 2/27: Sorrow
"Let's not get all bent outta shape..."
"Wha... you..." Buffy's fuming glare made Spike wonder if he better try and get a head start toward the door, but he knew she would understand if only she let him explain, to divert the blame off himself and to where it should lie.
"Giles insisted it was the only way, luv. I tried to talk him out of it. I did, but he wouldn't have it." Spike glanced down at the shackles and agitatedly scratched his head. "Bloody keys. Good one."
"You did this under your own power? No First involved?" Buffy was visually appalled by the admittance.
"We'll find him Slayer. Just have to mount up the troops and take it to the streets." Spike started toward the stairs. "Hatchlings are useless for the first day or so. Most likely sleep the day away, making him harder to track down. But he'll be hungry tonight. Careless. Best check out the old haunts. I've been meaning to check in on the Bronze since the remodel..."
"Spike!" Buffy charged, took the vampire by the throat and slammed him hard to the brick wall."If he so much as scratches someone... you will be the one to pay. Understand me?"
"Loud and clear," Spike spoke softly, trying to calm the irate Slayer. "But you know we need the help Buffy. Another vampire in the ranks will help even the odds here. We will find him. Red will give him back his soul and all will be good again. Better, you'll see."
Buffy released him and wiped the moisture from her cheek, determined to gain control of her emotions. "There isn't going to be a spell."
"Buffy, we need the spell. We need him," Spike urged.
"No. We needed Giles," she hissed through clenched teeth. Then her eyes softened as another tear glistened in the corner of her eye, on the verge of falling. "I just wished I'd realized it. Now he's gone," she walked past Spike and started up the stairs. "I know what I have to do."
"Buffy, you better reconsider..."
"We had an deal, Spike. An agreement that if one of us ever..." She dropped her head, catching the tear in her hand as she swallowed down her regrets. "God, I can't believe I'm saying this. I have to kill Giles. I promised."
"Slayer... think about this. This isn't some cyber Frankenstein monster or fashion-crazed goddess. We are up against big time evil, the First Evil, with an unrelenting militia of Bringers and demons at her beck and call. We have rot!" Spike paused and offered a hopeless smile. "... we have us. You and me and that's it. Scoobies aren't getting it done, luv. And no sorry army of pimply-faced would-be's can help." He could see Buffy working through the odds in her mind; calculating risks in her eternal balancing of life and death. "We need muscle. We need rage. We need expendable brute force. He has that now. We have to find Giles..."
"We won't have to find him." She cast a narrow glare at the vampire from the corner of her eye. "He'll find us."
Insidious rays of sunlight shown through the gutters, casting and eerie glow along the cracked cement walls as a lone figure made its way along the secret world below. Rats scampered out of the path of the approaching man. He moved sluggishly, trudging through the putrid streams of filth as he sought out his new home in the darkness.
This was his reward for his life of servitude, his dutiful existence within the shadows of the Slayer. True, she hadn't delivered the fatal blow herself but she may as well have when she allowed Spike to remain at her side, when she turned her back on her Watcher and friend. Now the Watcher was dead and decaying and a new beast was taking shape in his place.
It had been hours of wading in knee-high scum, making his way to the deeper caverns below Sunnydale when Giles' finally began to contemplate what would become of his friends, the only family he'd known for the last six years. Rather than feeling concerned though, he felt anger, an inexplicable rage toward those who had forgotten him. Not one of those self-interested children ever voiced appreciation or love for him and he'd given them so much, sacrificed so much. Most likely, they'd failed to notice he was even gone, too busy with their dating and trivial affairs. But he knew what their selfish, foolish behaviors would bring them. He would make sure they understood the severity of their situation.
A shadowy figure moved across the tunnel ahead of him and Giles took stock of his situation. He had to go as deep as possible to avoid the mystical reach of locator spells, to get out of reach of the life they had ripped from him. Then again, Willow was off on some mysterious misadventure and the others would need her for the casting of any spells. That might prove beneficial. He was curious if Buffy would grant him his wish and destroy him like he'd requested or if she'd continue with her current trend of contempt for him and try to return his soul. His instincts warned him to the later because Spike wanted it and the Slayer would surely do his bidding. Willow and Xander would no doubt insist on re-implanting the worthless soul. They would research, they would hunt, and in time they would come closer to finding him but not yet. Giles needed to grow accustomed to his new lot in life, or should it be lot in death. Regardless, he wanted nothing more than to escape from the emotions tormenting him. He got his wish when an intense pain echoed through his dead frame. First order of business... food.
The only food that seemed plentiful in the dampen sewer was rats. And though Giles felt ill at the thought, he knew his future depended on any drops of blood he could scrounge up. Besides, this hunger was more than he could bear, more than he'd ever known before. It was inhuman and severe.
He'd stumbled upon a small band of homeless vagrants just inside the tunnel entrance but had found it too unsavory to take one. Perhaps he suffered from the lingering remnants of his conscience but Giles couldn't bring himself to drink human blood, not yet. But with every step, with every agonizing memory of betrayal, his willingness to concede his morality and compassion grew. It was only a matter of time that he would fully become the monster he'd spent his life fighting. For now he would struggle to hang on to the last threads of humanity he contained, carrying them with him on his journey into losing his soul.
Cursing the existence of the Slayer, Giles buried his fangs into the furry flesh of a soiled rodent, slurping the precious drink it offered with a revolted scowl as the power of it's blood revitalized the demon, taking away the pain. But with every savored drop, a happy memory was expunged, leaving only heartbreak and rage. As he captured another rat and tore open it's neck with eager teeth, Giles sneered at the sunlight raining down from above. They would pay and pay dearly for what they had brought him to.
"Buffy? What's wrong?" Xander immediate took the crying Slayer into his arms, hoping it was not as bad as he knew it had to be. He took a brief inventory of the crowd gathered in the living room of the Summers household and noticed the absence of two crucial Scooby members. Willow, who was off on some mysterious mission, and Giles who was... who was... oh no.
"Where's Giles?" Xander pulled Buffy back, worriedly deciphering her expression. "Are you ok?" His old friend couldn't answer and Xander grew more impatient. "Where's G-man, Buff? Off on another de-triggering adventure? Collecting another Slayer wannabe?" Buffy couldn't look at him, staring at his chest in a strained attempt to collect herself.
'Give me something... anything,' he thought as his gut twisted in dread of the news to come.
"Xander, it's bad..." she whispered and closed her eyes, releasing tears that drizzled down her cheeks.
"Where is he?" Xander's expression was beyond serious as he searched the young Potentials' faces for some sign of what happened.
"Buffy's not telling us what's going on. Maybe you can get more out of her than we did," Kennedy suggested and motioned for the Slayers-in-training to leave, giving the old friends a moment of peace. Anya motioned to Andrew to head toward the kitchen and much to her surprise he followed her silent order. As the young women disappeared into the shadows of the basement, Xander returned his attention to the sobbing Slayer still grasping his arm.
"Xander..." Buffy's eyes shimmered up at him and he knew. "Giles is..."
"Don't say it." Xander pulled away anxiously and walked over to the window, peeking outside at the blazing orange staining painting the horizon. Buffy walked up behind him and placed a hand tenderly on his shoulder, trying to be as delicate as she could but desperate for him to accept the truth.
"Giles is dead." she leaned her forehead against the back of Xander's shoulder and gave his arm a gentle squeeze. "I'm so sorry." After a moment she felt the young man's shoulder's sink and rise as he permitted his silent cries to escape him. The awareness of Xander's sobs only fueled Buffy's already weaken fortitude and she began to join him in his release, sobbing into his back as she wrapped a consoling arm around from behind. They stood there at the window, weeping as Spike came out from the shadows.
Why hadn't she told him what happened, told him that Giles was a vampire? Spike rarely understood the Slayer's train of thought but trusted she would make the right decisions in the end. Maybe she didn't want them to know what had happened. Maybe she planned to go it alone, to hunt down her ex-Watcher and spare Anya, Red, Niblit and the cowardly lion the pain of knowing what had happened to the Watcher. The vampire lit up a cigarette and took in the smoke as he questioned his rash choice to turn the old man. He didn't know why but it hurt so much now to see Buffy and Xander like that. It was moments like these that made him want to tear out his retched soul. With a useless sigh, Spike escaped the sorrowful scene through the back door and ventured out into the night to bring the Watcher back home. He owed it to Buffy to make this right or die trying. Giles would come back to them, in one form or another.
Amidst all the turmoil and troubles she was facing with re-souling Angel in Los Angeles, Willow sensed something dire happening back in Sunnydale. As she focused on pinpointing the location of Angel's lost soul, she caught a glimpse of Giles gasping for breath and it broke her concentration. It was a fleeting image, one she couldn't necessarily trust. Besides, she had to finish this task before heading back to Sunnydale with reinforcements. If Giles was in trouble, she'd have to depend on Buffy to come through. After all, Buffy wouldn't allow anyone to harm a hair on her Watcher's head, except perhaps the redheaded witch herself, and Angel. With a silent wince, Willow tried to vanquish the bothersome images interrupting her spell and focused on preventing one apocalypse at a time.
Spike had searched the cemeteries and came up empty of any leads. 'What was this ponce up to?' he thought as he hurried along the alleyway. 'He has to feed. Must have shown his face around the bloody Hellmouth somewhere. Why wasn't there the usual gossip along the demonic grapevine that comes with new faces, or reanimated old ones, in town?'
"Any luck?" The Slayer jumped down from the fire escape ladder and landed to block the vampire's path.
"Not a bloody peep." Spike lit up a cigarette and sighed. "He's a cagey one."
"He won't stay hidden long." A rustle of garbage made Buffy glance suspiciously down the darkened alley. Her nervousness didn't slip by her vampire companion.
"I'll catch him, luv. Who better to find a vampire than another vampire?" Spike stepped forward to offer a tender pat on the shoulder and Buffy recoiled.
"Don't... don't touch me," she growled.
"Buffy, I'm sorry for what happened." Spike knew his words were useless, she had made up her mind to hate him for the time being and he accepted that.
"I don't need apologies. I need Giles found and dealt with, before the others..."
"What's up with that anyway? If you're so eager to rid yourself of this little dilemma, why not tell the others, have 'em help?"
"Giles died a hero," Buffy growled. "He's going to stay a hero!"
Spike nodded slightly and checked the shadows for an onlooker he was quite certain was there. Nothing revealed itself and the vampire turned back to the Slayer who was already disappearing back into the darkness.
"He still could be a hero, Buffy," Spike hollered. "If you give him the chance."
"I've got one too many vampires in my way already, Spike!" she yelled back and turned the corner.
Spike was wrong. Giles still needed his glasses but not for sight, now he saw more than he ever knew existed within the shadows. The illusion of academia and gentleness the spectacles provided made the hunt much more undemanding. Join that with his mild voice and accent and Giles was more than a match for any prey he chose, except for the Ode de Sewer perfume his clothes invariably carried from his travels below. He would need a clean change of clothes if he planned to be successful in seducing his victims. But he hadn't yet decided on his meal. Though very new to the world of immortal delights, he had inexplicable preferences when it came to human victims. Perhaps it was just some lingering animosity toward the Slayer and her kin, but he craved some juvenile blood for his first outing, a tender unspoiled youth. That wouldn't be Buffy then, he concluded. She'd given herself more than once to a beast of darkness; she must taste stale by now, even to the most inexperienced tongue. No, Giles sought a feast of innocence to inaugurate his new un-life. It was a momentous occasion and he wished to treat it as such, with all the reverence and awe it required.
As he stalked the various contributions the evening had to offer in the downtown area of Sunnydale's Red-light district, he couldn't shake the rage welling within him. Every feminine face held the features of a very familiar Slayer rather than their own. Why was her memory driving him to distraction? Did the act of unnatural death and rebirth bring about a heightened sense of anger or was he feeling these furious emotions in order to facilitate his first kill, an incentive to feed? Regardless of cause, the menu presented didn't suit him so he decided to wander a bit until his hunger overtook his preference. Besides, he might as well test the bounds of how long he could go without sustenance. Knowledge was power and Giles, of all people, had learned that lesson well. But if these irritating memories didn't end, he would be forced to satisfy his yearning for retribution and visit Buffy sooner than he'd anticipated. Focusing on the Slayer was a rash and narrow-minded choice. Expanding his horizons to the whole band of scrumptious morsels lying in wait at the Summers household might prove much more satisfying.
"Rupert," the sensual voice came from behind him as he turned a corner into a darkened alley. Giles whipped around to meet the enticing female, soon to be appetizer, but found no one in the area of the mouth of the alley.
"Oh lucky day..." Giles chuckled. "I've lost my mind along with my life." He continued down into the shadowed depths, listening for any sounds of company.
"You could never lose that delicious intellect, Rupert."
Giles searched the shadows once again for his admirer. After a moment, a faint figure appeared out of nowhere and began to approach him.
"Who might you be, my lovely?" He smiled graciously as the mysterious and shapely figure of a lady developed from the shadows. The light crept up her feet as she approached, revealing her legs, hips, stomach, bosom and finally the face. He couldn't help the smirk that spread along his lips as the beautiful face of Jenny Calander was revealed by the subtle illumination of the streetlight.
"Tisk, tisk, how quickly the boys forget," she stepped up slowly, strutting like a peacock as she made her way to him. "I thought I'd made more of an impression on you, Rupert."
"Not as much of an impression as I'd hoped for. But then again, that wasn't our choice was it?" He felt a hint of sadness as the dark beauty paused before him, looking up into his eyes with a sympathetic gaze.
"Seems we were meant for other things, more significant ends," she reached up to caress his face and paused as his hand lifted to greet hers.
"I hadn't predicted seeing you so soon, the First Evil, isn't it? Or do you prefer another name?" Giles smile faded as his hand motioned to touch her face and passed through her, feeling only cold air as it traveled.
"You may call me Jenny, if you like. I thought this vision might please you, as opposed to the more showy demonic face I wear when entertaining the ill-fated righteous." The false Jenny began to stroll around Giles, looking him up and down with a growing smile.
"While it is pleasing, I have things to tend to. So let's get down to business or be on your way." He continued on, deeper into the alley.
"You've finally made something of yourself, Rupert. You're no longer that useless word-man who's trapped at the whim of a scantly dressed, bimbo cheerleader." Jenny appeared before him and he stopped, staring coldly into the entrancing pools of her eyes. She could have sworn she'd seen a glimpse of anger at her choice of words describing the Slayer.
"You have your minion, Spike, to thank for that. Why don't you go pester him?" Giles continued to walk, passing through Jenny and moving on.
"He was just a stepping stone to my intended target." The tenacious spirit remerged out of the darkness and began to walk along side the uncooperative vampire. "He's achieved what I expected of him, supplied me with my upgraded model. You."
"Afraid I'm apt to disappoint you. I have no intentions of serving anyone but myself."
"Come now, Rupert, I thought you'd be jumping at the chance for a little wicked fun, seeing as you've gotten rid of that insignificant little soul... that ridiculous conscience."
"Why me? Spike has been around longer, fought and killed Slayers as well as spilled the blood of the innocent throughout Europe. If you haven't noticed, I am a bit new at this. Give me a few centuries and I might be more to your liking."
"You underestimate yourself Rupert. Then again, you always have. Oh well, I'd hoped to avoid this but you need a little encouragement to fall into the ranks with the big Evil. Darling." Jenny gave a slight inviting wave to the darkness and a low growl echoed in response.
Giles could hear the heavy footsteps of the beast as it approached. "I should have known you wouldn't take my refusal lightly. What's this little gift you have for me, then?" He retreated a few steps, wanting to draw out his opponent toward the streetlight and enabling him to size up the foe.
"You've heard of them. I believe your young friends are referring to them as uber vamps." Jenny smiled confidently as the monster crept out into the dim light, lips curled back and growling ferociously.
"I'm not in the mood. Why don't you call on me again some time and... " Giles never finished his lippy remarks. The uber vamp was on him with the slightest gesture of Jenny's finger.
As the gruesome vampire's claws slashed the air toward Giles, he dodged and swayed just out of reach, avoiding any contact as he observed the demons attack. It was swift and powerful, very capable. Buffy must have enjoyed playing with this one. Giles didn't want to do battle with such a beast on his first night out. He'd hoped for a sweet, young vixen from the Bronze, not a menacing super vampire. But the monster wouldn't give up, continually kicking and punching just out of reach of the rival defying him. Giles decided to play it modest and try to avoid the fight, simply continuing to defend himself. It was a tactic that would no doubt disturb the First.
"I know what you're trying to do and it won't work. This particular beast is set to hunt you down until you free yourself of its company. You may as well entertain me, after all the work I've done to bring you here."
Giles successfully blocked most of the attacks but missed a powerful kick to the midsection that took him completely off guard. He hunched forward as another strong thrust to the back of his neck sent him to his knees. The pain wasn't as intense as he'd expected but what confused him was the odd sensation of his body already attempting to fix the damage inflicted on him. He could feel the dead flesh tingling as the cells worked to preserve the shell of humanity protecting the demon within. Another kick to the face and Giles head sprang back as he was sent airborn to land hard on the cement. The uber vamp leapt into the air and came down with both feet, landing vigorously in the center of Giles' torso. The snap of the bones was almost deafening and the pain shot through him like lightning.
"Rupert, this is dull. You're boring me, almost as much as you did in life," Jenny stepped up to the fallen man and gave a sympathetic smile. "Give in, Ripper. Let go. Show me that wonderful darkness you've inherited."
Giles couldn't move, he was fascinated by the inner workings of his demonic form. The pain was intense but strangely gratifying as the aching wounds were slowly restored back to undead flesh. No wonder vampires seemed to flock to the Slayer; they took pleasure in the pain and the challenge. He allowed the uber vampire a few more blows to further experience the healing process. But when the terrible claws came toward his face, he acted on instinct in self-defense. With an almost inaudible mumble from Giles lips, the uber vampire was set ablaze, flailing wildly as flames consumed every last inch of the beast. Giles remained on his back, unwilling to believe the foe had been defeated so easily.
"That is what I wanted to see. That is why I want you." The false Jenny playfully twirled around in delight then knelt down beside the confused vampire. Giles could see the exuberance glistening in her eyes. "Immortal, intelligent, and blessed with mystical ability. The Slayer hasn't got a chance in hell when I let set you loose on her. And I should know!"
Giles examined the ashes of his adversary with a subtle smile. "Blessed? Right choice of words for someone like you. I can't be the only vampire with knowledge of the mystical arts."
"True, there have been others but they never last. They burn out too soon. You're Willow got a taste of that with her brisk but entertaining venture into the dark majicks. But you can do something the others couldn't. You can control yourself with the magicks. You've done it before. It is a powerful gift, to know when to walk away. You have that gift." The First stood up and gave him a sly wink. "Besides that, you know the Slayer. You were her Watcher and friend. Now you will be her greatest enemy."
"Enemy?" Giles chuckled. "Hmmm... if it's all the same..." He struggled to his feet, grasping at the still unhealed ribs. "I rather like the idea of meeting the Slayer on my own terms and for my own reasons." Giles brushed off the dirt and dust that had settled on his coat. "You are correct. I was her Watcher and friend and I do know her, better than she knows herself. But my relationship with my Slayer is none of your business and I couldn't care less about your unholy war." He headed toward the street as the First remained behind.
"You will care, Rupert. I know you will."