Spike’s immediate reaction when coming upon the gang in full attendance in the Magic Box after hours was to assume the worst.
“Oh bloody wonderful,” he groaned, flicking his spent cigarette to the floor and stomping it out with a worn boot. “What hell was unleashed on earth today? On a scale of pints, are we looking at pleasantly numb or blotto’d?”
“No apocalypse, just a little research,” Willow responded with a welcoming smile.
“Right then, I’ll be waiting in the darker wings in case you have heads to trample.” Spike strutted his way toward the door to the basement storage area.
“Who is that?” Giles asked, his face generously powdered by his half eaten jelly donut.
“That’s nobody and feel free to treat him accordingly,” Xander answered quickly, not bothering to acknowledge the vampire with even the slightest of glances.
Giles looked perplexed to Dawn, and said in a hushed voice, “He looks like someone to me.”
Spike shot an inquiring glance to Buffy only to receive a cold shoulder in return.
“What was it, then? Rynlot demon flash the ol’ memory eraser on Rupert? Or did Willow the Red have another go at a spell that went sour, casting him into a Forgetville encore?”
“No!” Willow objected, offended. “No more spells. I’m clean! Spic-n-span clean. Been whistling clean ever since...” She noticed Giles listening attentively and returned to reading her book. “Never mind.”
“That’s Spike. He helps us out some times,” Dawn explained, tidying up the mess of texts littering the table.
“Oh, Spike...” Giles’ face perked up, remembering Anya had mentioned him. He pushed back his chair, walked up to Spike, and wrapped him in a kindly embrace, much to the vampire’s disbelief. “Thank you for your help, Spike.”
“What’s he doin’?” Spike gulped as a look of horror crossed his face, his arms stiff and pinned to his sides by the strangely behaving Watcher.
“I believe that would be called a hug, Spike.” Xander shook his head.
“Make ‘im stop,” Spike squeaked, obviously bothered.
“Why?” Anya asked, surprised. “I like Giles’ hugs. He has lengthy, strapping arms that offer warmth and genuine affection. His hugs are much better than they used to be.” She paused to take in the quizzical faces of the others. “What? Am I the only one who finds improvement in Giles’ hugs?”
“I like ‘em,” Xander admitted.
“No Giles. We don’t hug Spike,” Buffy directed as she pried him away from the upset vampire.
“But I hug you and the others.” Giles examining Spike with fascination.
“He’s a vampire,” Buffy said evenly and Giles immediately pulled back.
“Ooohhh...” he sounded gravely, nodding with a stern look to the demon. Then he leaned in and whispered condolingly, “I’m sorry. Buffy has to slay you now.”
“Bugger this. What’s up with Rupert the town idiot, here? Finally dipped into that special batch of brandy... pickled the rest of his bored brain cells to oblivion?” Spike asked.
“Head trauma,” Anya blurted out. “Giles has been reduced to the comprehension level of a thirteen year old. Though I’d argue he’s very mature for his age.”
Giles smiled graciously at the compliment as he returned to his seat at the table.
“Xander taught me to shave today,” he declared proudly and took up one of the books.
“Legs or chest, Harris?” Spike quipped, returning his attention to Buffy. “What did him in, then? One too many blows to that blunt noggin of his? Sloppy work, Slayer.”
“You know what happened, Spike. I heard about your little undercover visit at the hospital,” she responded.
“You’ve gone dodgy, Slayer. Did nothing of the sort.”
“Give it up, Randy. Daddy’s very cross with you,” Xander snickered.
Giles perked up again, suddenly interested. “Your father’s here? I’d like to meet him.”
“Just a joke, Giles. Long story.”
“But I like stories.”
“That so, Rupert? Well then, have you heard the one about the Slayer who fell in love with a va...”
“Vacuum cleaner,” Buffy interrupted quickly. “Only it turned out it wasn’t love so much as loathing because, you know... it completely sucked!”
“Don’t recall no complaints while you had your tongue down my...”
“...Mike’s home made ice cream. You’re absolutely right. Best soft serve this side of Sunnydale.” Buffy interrupted again rushing forward to shuffle Spike off toward the training room.
“They must know each other quite well to finish each others sentences like that,” Giles observed quietly to Dawn.
“You got that right, Rupert. Slayer and I are the most intimate of friends.”
Buffy interrupted Spike with a shove, sending him stumbling through the training room door. Once the door shut behind them, Buffy swiveled fast to direct a threatening finger toward the vampire’s smirking face.
“Spike, you better shut it or you’ll be meeting the wooden version of your namesake.”
“Come on, Slayer... just a bit o’ fun. Get the gang a gossipin’ ‘bout us.”
“There is nothing to gossip about. There is no ‘us’!”
“Sure there is, pet. Now that your old man has come back to the roost, we can return to the previously scheduled programming and revisit the little drama that was our kiss.” With sight of her long face and tired eyes, he knew something was wrong. “What, you’re telling me it’s true… what demon girl said out there? Giles is...”
“Naw, he isn’t, is he? I can see it all over you... all over them. How bad?”
“Research? Languages? Weapons?”
“He can barely even read English, Spike, let alone anything else. He can’t fight. He can’t strategize, can’t train, can’t...”
“Scowl?” Spike offered with a faint smile to try and lighten the mood. “But a mighty fine hugger according to the boy.” The vampire waited for a response and when he got only silence and a glare, he continued. “Care to bend my ear, I’m all yours? Any way you want me.”
“Just leave me alone.”
“Who else are you goin’ to confide in, Buffy? Them?” Spike gestured toward the door leading to the main floor of the shop. “No need for kid gloves here, pet. You can tell me the ugly, make with the bickering. It won’t leave this room.”
“What part of ‘leave me alone’ aren’t you getting? I don’t want to talk about it.”
“The hell you don’t! Kept your little heavenly holiday from your Scoobies, think I earned points in the confidential department.”
“Fine! You want to know? I don’t know what I’m doing, Spike.” Buffy said, exasperated as she raked her fingers through her hair and sank down onto the couch. “I thought maybe if we got him home... maybe if he saw things as they were...”
“Maybe he needs more time, luv. Maybe it’ll come back in a flash like in those teary movies.”
“And maybe it won’t.”
“So what if it doesn’t? Don’t need ‘im, do you? I mean, he’s been shelved for a while now. I’ve been the one out there with you, dusting nasties and watchin’ your shapely backside. Best to send your Watcher back to the factory, hope for a warranty replacement or better yet, go it solo. Of course, if you’re feeling all lonely like, you always have me,” Spike said with an inviting smile. “What’s it matter? He was skipping town on you anyway, remember?”
“Every single day,” she sighed.
Spike’s expression suddenly turned angry with realization. “Right! Why didn’t I see it before?”
“Don’t get me wrong – love a good snog as much as the next man -- but here I was, thinking I could play the role of the leading man when all I was was just another bloody stand-in.”
“What are you talking about? This has nothing to do with you, Spike. This is about…”
“Your Watcher. Yeah, it is. About his leaving and the irony that he actually did it, isn’t it? He left you. Not in the physical, catching-the-red-eye-out-of-town sense, but in the isn’t-what-he-used-to-be sense.” The vampire waved in frustration towards her. “That’s what all this is about... this brooding you got going on. ‘S why you been avoiding me. Knew I’d see it... call you on it.”
“It’s not like that.”
“No, it can’t be. Not as long as you keep ‘im trapped here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, I’ve no love lost for the old man, but even I can see this isn’t right. Open your eyes, Slayer. You think this is the best place for him? Rainman Rupert, teetering over the pearly whites of a roaring Hellmouth? He’d be better off in some retirement community...”
“Fine then, some highly trained medical facility better equipped to deal with what he needs than you and your cheerleaders. He’s not some pet for you to coddle or doll for you to play mum to Buffy. You’re barely right with yourself, let alone taking on Special Olympics Watcher out there.”
“Fuck you, Spike!”
“Right, ‘cause I’m being the Big Bad in this. Seems to me you’re playing the pigheaded twat. Yeah, you heard me! Keeping ‘im here to be nothing but a useless shell of a man you can’t let go of. And things aren’t gonna get any better until you wake up and face the fact that you aren’t doing this for him or even for your precious little pep squad out there.” The vampire shook his head in disappointment. “You’re doing it for you ‘cause you can’t let him go.” Spike pulled out a cigarette, lit it and puffed out a thick cloud of smoke as he stared disappointedly at her. “It isn’t right, Buffy.”
“Am I?” Spike chuckled smugly and pushed his way passed her, heading for the back door. “If you ask me…”
“Rupert’s lucky to be vertical. Next time, he may not come out so well... or at all. You ready to risk it, Slayer? ‘Cause I’m bettin’ he doesn’t know any better… which means it’s on your head if he meets with an gruesome death.”
As the door slammed closed behind Spike, Buffy flopped sideways on the couch, curled up into a ball and stared off into the empty space of the training room. She hated to admit it, but Spike was right.
what bad men do
Giles thumbed through the pages, growing irritated with how little he could understand of his own journal. He’d been reading for days and recognized only scattered words and phrases. Sometimes he would repeat a passage up to five times, hoping that the next time through he would finally, miraculously awaken from his fog. But more often than not, he remained lost in the puzzles of long sentences and complicated vocabulary. Many times, the writing was so jagged, nearly frantic, that he couldn’t make out the words at all. Then there were the sketched symbols, dark and bothersome things that made his stomach upset and pulse quicken. This was only made worse by the fact he didn’t recognize the words in the captions, like it was a different language altogether.
He’d written the thing, why couldn’t he comprehend it? Why couldn’t he remember? Why wouldn’t they tell him what a Watcher was? Why wouldn’t they tell him who he was? It was stupid, it was mean and he wasn’t going to eat dinner until he got some answers.
With a furious throw, Rupert sent the journal flying across the room. It collided into a porcelain ice skater statuette sitting atop the dresser, shattering it to pieces before tumbling uselessly to the messy floor. He cringed regretfully at his clumsiness and collapsed forward on the bed, burying his face into the ruffled bed sheets.
“I can’t do anything right,” he mumbled into the pillow. He lay there for a moment, considering giving up his studies to read Xander’s comics instead. Those were easier to understand and had many colorful pictures that didn’t upset his stomach. His gaze moved to a photo of Buffy posing heroically with a stake in her hand. She looked just like one of those characters in the comic but she was a real life hero. So what did that make him?
Giles pushed himself off the bed and with a sigh, selected a different journal from the imposing stack. He settled back on the bed, making himself comfortable as he paged through to the last quarter of the book. He remembered Dawn saying that she’d read this one. Maybe if he looked at something more recent…
‘The ritual is abundantly clear in the records. Even so, I’ve read it through again and again, fearing misinterpretation due to fatigue or the pain medications. Every single time, the texts leave little room for doubt. I dread what conclusion I’m forced to. Dawn must die.’
Giles jerked upright, rereading the passage again. It couldn’t be right. Dawn isn’t dead. He shook his head, glancing down at a photo of young girls playing in the park, faces beaming with delight and basking under a warm summer sun. Buffy was pushing Dawn on a swing, both alive and safe.
‘Dawn must die.’
How could he even say that let alone do it. But it didn’t happen, Dawn was alive. Maybe Buffy stopped him from going through with it. He whipped through the pages, eyes scanning the paragraphs until finally stopping when he saw that awful word again… ‘dead’.
‘I did what had to be done. My duty met once again. Even so, I feel the need to beg forgiveness. Ben is dead by my hands and Glory with him.’
“No,” he gasped and saw that horrid word again at the very last entry and it was the worst one yet.
‘I have no other words for the loss suffered today. Buffy is dead. I failed her.’
what was my life for
As Buffy came through the door, she could barely contain her shock at the nuclear fallout that used to be her bedroom. Her eyes scanned the ruins, assessing the damage with as much empathy as she could muster. As the frustration grew, she repeated her adopted mantra, ‘It isn’t personal. Giles doesn’t know any better… yet!’ Still, it was hard to ignore the fact that her room had been transformed into a wasteland of dirty clothes, discarded journals, yearbooks, photos, and plates. How could one man be capable of such devastation? She took in a deep breath to reinforce her patience and headed on in, determined to find the floor again.
“Was I a bad man?”
Though the question was spoken softly, the unexpected presence of someone in the room startled Buffy. She pivoted around to find herself even more shocked, suddenly faced with the unsettling sight of Giles standing shirtless before her. One of his journals dangled from his hand at his side and his face wore a fretful expression waiting for an answer.
Buffy’s first instinct was to divert her eyes, suddenly embarrassed to be witnessing her Watcher half naked in what used to be her room, her space and sanctuary. This was the same place that had witnessed some hugely intimate interactions. But now, a man stood bared to her with only a simple question… and for the life of her she couldn’t remember what it was.
“Oh, Giles… sorry, I… I didn’t know you were in here,” she said, realizing her eyes seemed incapable of straying from his exposed chest. Accepting defeat, she casually shifted sideways, forcing her focus to the yearbooks on the floor. ‘He doesn’t know any better,’ Buffy thought, eyes pinned to her prom photo on display at her feet.
“Before, was I… was I one of the bad men?” he repeated with a gentle urgency. “Is that why you won’t tell me what a Watcher was? What I was? What I did?”
“Giles, n-no. God no. You were a good man… I mean, you are a good man,” Buffy stammered. ‘Where is he getting this from?’ she thought.
“The books say I did bad things, thought bad things. I hurt people like the bad men do.”
“No, you’re nothing like the bad men. It’s the job, Giles. We all do what might look bad to the outside world but we’re the good guys, I promise. It’s just… it’s so hard to explain... so much to explain.” Buffy rambled on, feeling much like she was only worsening the situation. “You were my Watcher, a good Watcher because you were a good man.”
“Then why do I have these?”
‘He needs you. Pull it together, Summers,’ she ordered herself and turned to face him, braving a long, hard look. She knew instantly what he was referring to and choked back a whimper.
There was the ragged scar from where the lance had pierced his side as they fled from the Knights of Byzantium. Above it were a series of what looked to be cigarette burns on his shoulder along with faint scratches, as if clawed by fingernails. Then she caught a glimpse of his back reflecting in her mirror and realized immediately where those horrible marks were from. How could she answer? How could she tell him that many of the scars he wore were inflicted by someone she’d once loved and trusted? How could she tell him that they were her fault? Again, she was at a loss for words when she needed the right ones most. So with a weighty sigh, she started by offering a regretful smile and waited for the words to come.
“Giles, you were a good man. I mean… the alarming condition of my former bedroom aside, you *are* a very good man. Those scars are there to remind you of that. Every single one was gotten when you were trying to be good, trying to help people… to help me.”
“But it says I failed you,” he said sadly and held the journal out for her to see. She hesitated in taking it, feeling like it was too much an intrusion. But how else could she understand? She took the book and read the short and only inscription on the warped and stained page.
‘I have no other words for the loss suffered today. Buffy is dead. I failed her.’
“Listen to me, Giles,” she urged, setting the book aside and approaching him. She stared up into his troubled eyes and said slowly and sincerely, “You have *never* failed me. You are a good man who’s helped me so much…”
“I helped you?” A glimmer of hope returned to his gaze.
“That’s right, you did. All the time,” she said and chuckled faintly as she continued. “Even when I didn’t want your help, you always helped. That’s what being a Watcher was to you. You kinda redefined the role.”
“Can I help you now?” He asked quietly. “Dawn said I used to go with you when you patrolled. I wrote about it. Though I don’t understand all the words, they say I used to go. If I used to help, I want to help now.” It was as close to begging as she’d ever seen from him and it broke her heart to refuse his request.
“I’m sorry but you can’t.” She shifted toward the heap of dirty clothes, knowing that if she saw his pleading greens staring tenderly at her that she would lose all resolve.
“Why not?” He stepped in closer and Buffy was increasingly aware of the fact he was still shirtless.
“It’s too dangerous.” Again, she found her eyes straying from the heap, slowly inching their way to glimpse his chest. It wasn’t even that great of a chest, just some nice curves and a speckling of hair. Still, she couldn’t help but look and it seemed so wrong. “You could get hurt.”
“I know about the monsters. Everyone told me and I read about them.” He was trying to be so brave, trying to persuade her with a determined tone and steadfast stance. “I’m not afraid.”
“But you should be, Giles,” Buffy said solemnly. “That’s the problem.”
“I don’t understand.” He frowned, looking so lost that she just wanted to hold him. Instead, she lifted her hand and gently brushed her fingers along his scarred forehead, wishing she could wipe away the confusion etched there.
“You almost died the night you got this scar. I was there. I saw what happened and I won’t ever let it happen again.” She watched his pout grow stern and his jaw clench with disappointment.
“Then I can never be what I was.” His head bowed, ashamed.
“Giles, I’m sorry but…”
“My name is Rupert,” he interrupted sharply as he reached up and carefully pulled her hand back from his face. He stared at her for a moment, holding her hand firm in his and looking as if he was working up the nerve to say something more. The phone ringing shattered the awkward silence and suddenly set Rupert in motion. He grabbed his shirt, carelessly throwing it on as he hurried out of the bedroom. Buffy stumbled after him as he quickly disappeared down the stairs and outside, slamming the front door in his hasty escape. She pulled open the door and took a few steps to go after him when she heard the urgent voice of Xander sounding from the answering machine.
“Buffy, you there? We got trouble. Get to the Magic Box pronto!”