Conversations part 5

The anxious Scoobies hurried from the Summers residence, ignoring the ringing phone. They were focused, preparing to face an old friend as an enemy. As the door shut behind them, the answering machine picked up the line and the usual message ran.

Rustling papers, muffled voices and sirens echoed from the speaker of the machine.

“Should I tell her about the bodies?” A nervous voice cracked.

“Of course not! Just tell her to come!”

“Is there an answer?”

“I think the machine might have picked up.”

“Well say something!”

“Miss Summers, I’m afraid there has been…um, an incident at Breakers Woods. We need you to come as quickly as you can.”

“You’re to follow my lead. No one acts until I say,” Buffy knew it sounded harsh but she wanted to protect them. She didn’t want anyone to have to hurt Giles but her; after all it was her duty. Xander and Willow followed her into the cemetery with determination etched in their hardened expressions.

“You can’t start this party without me,” Ethan stepped out of the darkness with a cocky glint in his eyes and Buffy was glad to see him. Having another sorcerer made her feel a bit more confident.

“Thanks,” she smiled as he caught up with her and marched along.

“Couldn’t tear me away from this little love fest. It should be…interesting.”

“Buffy, can we trust him?” Xander objected.

“No!” Buffy said without hesitation. She looked at Ethan who seemed dismayed by her assessment, “But that’s exactly what I want.” She winked at him as they approached the familiar area of the cemetery where Jenny Calender was laid to rest.

Willow saw the wink and wondered what it was all about. Things were getting weirder by the minute. As the group reached Jenny’s headstone, Willow and Ethan began to search the darkness with their eyes.

“You feel…?” Ethan didn’t finish his question.

“I sense it. He’s here.” Willow finished and continued to look for Giles.

A tall dark figure stepped out from behind a wilting oak tree and Buffy recognized the silhouette.

“Fitting setting for such an assembly…I feel,” Giles smiled at the group. “Thank you for coming, Buffy.”

Giles was dressed much as she’d last seen him in Sunnydale, black raincoat with gray sweater but the total absence of any color. Only the green of his eyes offered any flare to his outfit.

“Thanks for the invite! What was it you wanted?” She stepped forward and motioned the others to stay back.

“Why did you bring them if you aren’t going to involve them?” Giles strolled toward her.

“They are my last resort. I hoped we might come to an understanding.” As she took her final steps, she could she his green eyes almost glowing in the dark.

“You have only one choice, Buffy. Come with me.” His smile was deceptively cordial.

“Or what?”

Giles shook his head and waved a disapproving finger at her, “Let’s not consider that option. It would be…unpleasant.”

“Where would we go? Why do you want me to go with you?” Buffy took a step back.

“I’d prefer to have this conversation in private.”

“Outta luck there G-man!” Xander stepped up beside Buffy.

“Like days of old,” Giles examined the faces of his friends.

“But you should be standing with us,” Willow corrected.

“I’m ready for you little one,” Giles sneered at Willow, reminding her of their last confrontation.

“Xander…how’ve you been?” Giles taunt sent shivers up Xander’s spine. This was not the meek librarian of years past, this was a callous villain.

“Been better. T-thinking a lot about you. Got s-something for you,” he swung his arm in front of him, revealing Giles old crossbow, aiming directly at Giles head.

“By all means,” Giles smirked and put his arms behind his back, standing like a man ready to be executed. Buffy’s pulse quickened at the unexpected showdown. She wanted to stop Xander but gave him a moment to consider his actions, trusting her friend to make the right choice. The young man’s hand quaked under the strain of his mixed emotions. He wanted revenge on his tormentor but how could he kill the man he’d come to think of as a father. Xander couldn’t pull the trigger, he had to understand. After the pain of torture Giles had experience at the hands of Angelus, how could he inflict such pain on someone close to him, someone he cared about? The crossbow fell to Xander’s side as a tear trickled down his cheek.

“That’s my boy,” Giles had a troublesome sincerity in his tone. Singular traces of the old Giles, their Giles shown through amidst the behavior of the evil sorcerer he’d become. It made it all the much harder for the friends to act against him.

“Giles…please. I don’t want to hurt you.” Willow’s plea was meaningless, she knew he was more powerful than she was and was actually pleading for him not to hurt them.

“No one will be harmed, I simply want Buffy.” He said it casually, like he was asking for the time.

“No deal Ripper,” Ethan stepped protectively in front of Buffy, bluish sparks flickering from his clenched hand. Willow was surprised at his resolve and couldn’t help wondering what brought on this sudden change of heart toward his known adversary. Buffy appreciated the foolish chivalry but knew better. She pulled Ethan beside her, knowing Giles had no love loss with Ethan and wouldn’t think twice about killing him.

Giles saw the exchange and smiled knowingly, lowering his eyes to the ground.

“I see,” he sighed with displeasure. Buffy saw his eyes darken to hollow black pools as he mumbled something under his breath then peer up at Ethan from below his shaded brow. Ethan’s body was suddenly engulfed in flames and an agonizing scream sounded over the blaze of fire.

“Ethan!” Buffy tried to reach through the flames to pull him free but the temperature was beyond her threshold for pain.

Willow acted quickly, speaking mystical words that vanquished the fire to cinders around his feet. The unlikely protector trembled on the scorched ground, curled up in a fetal position with sweat pouring off his exposed skin.

“Ethan…are you injured?” Buffy knelt to him and searched for burns, she saw none, only burnt clothes. “Ethan, answer me!”

“N-no…I’m fine, just a bit overheated,” he blinked up at her and smiled as his gaze focused on her concerned stare. “Just a touch hot under the collar…no more than your usual effect on me.”
Ethan unsteadily got to his feet and smiled at Giles. “Parlor games, eh Ripper? You can do better than that old man.”

“Please don’t taunt the psychopathic sorcerer!” Buffy urged him.

“Bit of fun, luv. No worries,” he winked.

Willow shot a questioning glance at Xander who acknowledged he’d seen the flirtatious exchange as well.

“Buffy? Is there something you want to tell us?” Willow whispered.

“I don’t want to hear it,” Xander shook his head disapprovingly.

“None of your business… besides, this isn’t the time,” Buffy stepped forward, separating herself from the others. “Give me a moment guys.”

“Buffy, I don’t think…” Xander urged but a wave of Buffy’s hand stopped his thought.

Giles watched her approach and cocked his head to the side, curious what tactic she’d adopt next.

“You’re choice in men perplexes me. Why do you insist on choosing men who will only hurt you?” He spoke softly, trying to be discrete.

“I’m a monster magnet…what can I say?” She smiled, wondering if he knew how true those words were.
“Leave with me…please,” he whispered. “Prevent the imminent massacre that lies ahead. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Then don’t. Giles please…don’t do this. We will take you to people who can help,” Buffy wasn’t sure who that might be, perhaps those who’d helped Willow. The Council would only use him to bad ends so they weren’t an alternative.

“The coven?” His face fell with sadness that Buffy wasn’t sure was genuine. “They can’t…they aren’t…”

Buffy knew what the cryptic message meant. He killed them, as he did the thirteen Watchers, the three attendants at the Council headquarters, and Olivia. Buffy had to face the truth, Giles was a cold-blooded killer.

She stumbled back to join the others. Buffy’s mind raced, determined to make some sense of his viciousness. He was wiping out anyone with the power to stand against him, to defeat him. She realized his actions left her no choice, he had to be destroyed.

“Giles, you know what I have to do?” With her eyes never leaving his, she raised her hand, signaling the others with a finger and Giles knew she’d made her decision.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Giles saw Xander aim the crossbow again, Willow had her hand raised and surging with power. Buffy revealed a handgun, cocking it and pointed it at his chest. Giles could see the pain in their eyes for what they felt they must do.

“Me too,” his expression was understanding and calm, not surprised in the least for her actions.

‘My god…are we really doing this?’ Buffy asked, not ready to accept what she was about to do.
In a flash, Buffy let loose with the pistol, watching as a bullet tore into the flesh of Giles chest, then another. She emptied the weapon and watched Giles stagger back, feeling a cry choke in her throat with every recoil of the deafening gun. Xander fired the crossbow and saw the arrow pierce Giles shoulder as he fell to one knee. As he quickly reloaded the weapon and aimed for Giles head, Xander cursed his poor aim.

Ethan and Willow let loose with blinding waves of energy, enveloping Giles with a brilliant light. The tendrils of power ripped the fabric of any matter in their path. Buffy and Xander watched in horror as the surrounding land and tombstones glowed with vivid magic. An eerie silence filled the landscape as they all ceased their attack and watched, waiting for any sign of Giles. A breeze whipped through the cemetery. Ash and smoke twirled around the cracked remains of the headstones and trees. A rustling sound echoed through the quiet grounds and the group of friends held their breath, partly in hopes he was still alive and partly wishing he was dead. Buffy’s heart leapt as Giles walked out of the shadows and clouds. His face was dirty and scraped but his eyes had returned to their stunning green tint and his features were free from the marks of black magic. Though he was bleeding and looked severely wounded, he moved with confidence, not showing any sign of pain.

“My turn…” he smiled with a furious intensity building in his stare, eyes changing once again to his alter ego. The gang gawked in disbelief as menacing strands of dark energy trickled from his fingers, ready to strike.

Buffy rushed toward him, tossing the gun aside and holding her hands out. “No…stop! Please, wait.”

“Buffy, no!” Ethan objected, unable to take hold of her arm as she passed him.

The gang searched each other’s faces for some explanation of Buffy’s actions, wondering what they should do next. She cautiously approached him; Giles looked down at her with a self-assured smile as purple sparks flared from his hands. His stern glare softened as he saw her eyes pool with tears. Anger subsided and he felt the power still within.

“Please, no,” she begged, seeing his eyes return to his usual warm green.

“Come with me if you want them to live,” Giles pleaded for her to submit. He held out his hand, urging her to take it.

Buffy tried to think but her head pounded with a headache caused by the scent of ash and sulfur. Giles smiled and closed his outstretched hand.

“Perhaps this will persuade you,” he opened his hand to reveal a silver necklace with a pinkish crystal, Dawn’s necklace. Buffy’s eyes immediately filled with tears. He had her; this monster had her right where he wanted. She had no choice.

“Buffy, no,” Xander yelled as the others ran towards Giles and Buffy.

Buffy slipped her trembling hand into his and let him tenderly pull her to him.
‘It’s for the best, my love.’

Her mind filled with a confusing haze as she stared into Giles eyes, using him as an anchor for the disillusionment of the magic that coursed through her. She cursed him as she saw the gang rush to prevent them from leaving. It was too late for her.

“Ripper!” Ethan screamed, slamming his fist into nearby tree trunk as the couple vanished before his eyes.

“Will he hurt her?” Xander looked at Willow.

“Our Giles would never…” she started but stopped as Ethan shook his head.

“For the last time…that isn’t your Giles. Isn’t my Ripper either,” He stared at the charred spot where Buffy had last stood. “No telling what he’s capable now.”

Part 6...