Greater Good part 11/27: The Unwelcome
"You must be her?" The tall, rusty hair preacher stepped out from behind the growing horde of the First's minions and approached Buffy with a hospitable smile. "I've been waiting so long to meet you."
"Here I am." Buffy cocked her head aside, clearly interested as to who the fresh blood was. "You want an autograph?"
"You see, boys..." the stranger addressed his army of Bringers and uber vamps, "She'd a feisty one. Looks like you might be avoiding such activities for the time being." He gestured to her bandaged hand and snickered. "Rumor has it your faithful Watcher gave you that little nibble and yet you still accepted him back within your flock. Nice group of allies you have there."
Buffy already couldn't stand the wicked tongue of the preacher taunting her. "So who are you? Some reject from the local satanic church or are you a freelance type of bad guy?"
'Get out of there, Buffy!' Giles instincts told him to attack but he wanted to follow her orders. He needed to win back her trust. Spike stormed out to stand vigilant by her side and Giles couldn't help but feel relieved by his allegiance to Buffy. For all his faults, the vampire truly did believe he loved the Slayer. He probably did in his own twisted way. Giles could relate. But he was determined to heed her wishes and stand guard to protect the Potentials.
"Stay alert," Giles warned the young Slayers-to-be. "I sense something."
"Vague that up for me, would ya," Kennedy quipped, reminding Giles of another Slayer not so long ago. It only served to strengthen his resolve to protect the Potentials as best he could.
"Who's this then?" Spike asked as he lit up a cigarette and offered Buffy a confident wink. "You been steppin' out on me again, luv?"
Buffy was furious that Spike hadn't followed her orders, but the vampire remained consistent in his loyalties. She couldn't argue with that.
"Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Caleb," the preacher said pleasantly. "And I'll be the death of you this fine evening." With a snap of his fingers, the small army of uber vamps and Bringers attacked. Giles tensed, instinctively nudging forward to protect his Slayer. Dawn stopped him with a gentle grip of his hand. He glanced down at her pleading eyes. Without a word spoken, he knew what she said and remained grudgingly with the Potentials and Dawn.
He watched impatiently as Buffy expertly dispatched a couple of Bringers and moved toward the preacher. An uber vamp blocked her way and she focused on getting rid of the more dangerous demons first. She attempted to use a stake on the brute but quickly found the weapon slipping clumsily from her handicapped hand. As the monster counterattacked, Buffy managed to outmaneuver him with a sly dodge and get around behind him, wrapping a band saw blade around his neck. With a forceful tug, the toothy metal ribbon decapitated the beast and Buffy targeted another ferocious vamp. Faith immediately rushed out swinging, managing to take out a few unsuspecting Bringers as she joined Buffy and Spike in battle. They were successfully keeping the small gang of minions at bay, but Giles' gut warned that there was something more to come.
"We can't just watch, Giles!" Xander fidgeted.
"Stand fast," he ordered and looked to Willow for a quick opinion. She offered a weak shrug, visibly uncertain of what to do. No one wanted to go against the Slayer's orders but there was obviously more to this preacher than met the eye.
Giles saw Buffy dust the other uber vamp, duplicating the maneuver with the band saw blade. Faith managed to cut through the Bringers with ease as Spike took on the third vampire. The curious preacher remained untouched and apparently uninterested in joining in on the brawl. It troubled Giles that he conveyed such confidence. Then he realized why the man showed no fear as two more uber vamps and four more Bringers made their way toward the skirmish from the opposing end of the street.
"It's a bloody trap," Giles growled and glanced back, unaware he'd already vamped.
"Giles, you were supposed to warn us before you do that," Anya whined and stumbled backwards toward the nervously twitchy Potentials.
"Sorry." He concentrated for a moment and returned to his more mild appearance. "Just happens that way."
"Something tells me that this guy has all the troops he needs. They're sitting ducks out there, Giles," Xander said. "And who knows how many more invitations he's sent out."
A slight tug at his arm and he glanced down to Dawn who pointed eagerly out toward the conflict.
"One more uber and three more Bringers just came from around the intersection," Willow said anxiously. "They need help."
"We'll get the girls clear," Anya suggested, motioning to Andrew. "You need to get out there."
"Xander, take Dawn." Giles didn't manage to finish his instruction before the young lady shook her head insistently, refusing to leave. "Dawn, Buffy wants you safe. You can't be here. "
"I'll get them out. Help Buffy!" Xander started herding the panicked Potentials toward the back of the hardware store. "Good luck." Willow, Dawn and Giles stood quiet at the remaining store window and evaluated the situation. Spike was already showing signs of fatigue as he managed to remove another Bringer from the fight. Faith was having a rough time with three unruly Bringers as Buffy took on anything coming at her. Giles had to give them a chance to escape.
"I hate to mention it..." Willow said softly, "But it may be a good time for that game face Spike talked about."
This ain't so bad," Faith yelled as she brutally snapped the neck of another Bringer.
"Glad you're enjoying yourself," Spike yelled as he took out a Bringer himself and took a quick glance at Buffy. "We got more coming from the south."
"And more party crashers from the north." Faith caught a glimpse just before an uber vamp sliced his claws along her back, taking her by surprise.
"This is just the appetizer," Caleb snickered. "Wait till you see the main course!"
"There's too many!" Buffy ordered and glanced over at the hardware store.
As if on queue, Giles leapt through the busted window of the store and landed with an elegant flourish in the center of the street as his face altered into the demon. She quietly cursed his defiance but thanked his intuition. They were all quickly losing steam. He marched toward them and Buffy felt a trace of relief. But was she welcoming the beast or Giles, she wondered? She didn't have the time to find out as another vamp attacked swiftly and accurately, ripping a gash into her shoulder. "Faith, go. Get the girls out!"
"On it!" with an impressive burst of energy, the dark Slayer took off running toward the store.
"Girls? You have your little whores hiding in the shops?" Caleb smiled. "I should have known." He started toward the hardware store and Buffy moved in to stop him as another uber vamp blocked her approach. Suddenly, she was tied up with two, and Caleb continued down the street toward the discovered hideout.
"Catch you later, G!" Faith smiled as she passed Giles on her way to the store.
"Why do they insist on calling me that," he snarled as the tall preacher ambled up to him. He stopped and offered a polite nod.
"You would be that Watcher fellow, right?" Caleb smiled and offered the vampire his hand. "Little hard to recognize you now, with all the fire and brimstone of that sinful demon ruling you. But there's a shade of humanity there, too. The weakness of it still lingers."
"Who are you?" The stench of the rotting flesh waft past his nose as the third wave of minions marched up from behind him. Giles' sharpened sense of smell could distinguish two more uber vamps and three more Bringers. Xander may have been correct in his suggestion that more reserves were on their way.
"Oh, I do apologize. Where are my manners? I'm Caleb, a friend and admirer. I do so like your work. A little nip and tuck and she'll be ready for retirement. Too bad you couldn't finish the job. Now me... I never leave a job undone. One must see things through else suffer for it. Reminds me of a proper sermon I use for the unclean whores I've saved."
"Best enjoy those memories. You won't be saving anyone anymore."
"Oh, that's where you're wrong, my friend. I've only just begun. You're free to join me if you like." Caleb stepped forward and Giles took hold of his arm, stopping him with a crushing squeeze. "Come now, where's that small town hospitality? Is that any way to welcome a man of the cloth?"
"It's quite appropriate for the Hellmouth, I assure you," Giles growled. "As well as this." He landed a combination of hearty punches, watching closely as Caleb faltered with the vicious barrage. The strange preacher collected himself with a delighted chuckle as his reinforcements moved in to attack the vampire.
"I'll handle the Watcher, boys. Go give that uppity Slayer and her pet vampire a friendly reception." Giles charged toward the gruesome gang and Caleb blocked him, landing a potent uppercut that sent Giles crashing through the residual hardware store window. Shattered glass exploded around Dawn and Willow as the stunned vampire collided into a tool display and collapsed to the floor. Nails and screws rained down on him, adding insult to injury. Willow hurried over and knelt down to nurse her friend, anxiously trying to dust off the splinters of glass as Giles dizzily gazed up at her.
"What the fuck?" Faith scrambled over to Giles and watched as Caleb sauntered toward the store, amused.
"Take Dawn." He mumbled and reached for Faith's outstretched hand. She helped him to get to his feet and brushed off some of the nails and screws glistening along his coat.
"Giles, what is he?" Willow asked.
"Take Dawn and go. Now!" He roared as he staggered a bit then steadied himself against a nearby display. "You as well," he grumbled to Faith who opened her mouth to object. "That's an order!"
"Come on, girls. That's our cue to leave." She motioned to the back door and Willow didn't need coaxing, she was instantly bothered by his blazing gaze threatening violence. She nodded uncomfortably and tugged on Dawn's arm as the young lady fought to remain at Giles' side. The vampire's fierce expression mellowed to Giles' concerned features pleading for her to listen. She started to hobble backwards, keeping an anxious eye on the Watcher as he distorted back into the beast and turned to face the inexplicably powerful foe.
"Aw, would you look at that. You've got yourself some little girlfriends," Caleb stepped into the shambles of the store and gave a friendly wave to the departing young women. "How touching, defending them to the last."
"You stay away from them," Giles rumbled, guarding their escape.
"Not to worry. It's not them I'm after, yet." Caleb smiled and stopped his advance. "Tell you what. I'm a fair man. Let's make a deal. I'll let your little family live if you give me those dirty girls."
"You'd doom your precious family to death rather than give up some sinning whores fighting for an empty cause?" Caleb snickered as he glanced at his struggling minions. The Slayer was unfortunately holding her own with the help of that bewildering vampire. His satisfied smile faded as his attentions returned to the Watcher.
"The almighty evil will crush your piteous flock and consume your soul in celebrated triumph. It shall be. And no immoral jezebels are going to stop that day of reckoning. Certainly no sub-demonic, inhuman refuse such as yourself will make any difference in the overall scheme of things."
"But I know something you don't," Giles snarled with a hint of a grin playing along his lips.
"What's that, now?"
"We'll win." The vampire attacked, wildly slashing at the preacher who dodged the first few strikes but was surprised by a swift elbow to the nose. Caleb backed away and maneuvered behind some displays to give himself a breather.
"And how'd you figure that?" the preacher smiled.
"Why else would the First try to strip her bare of all those around her. She's got you nervous, desperate. She will win, regardless of loss, regardless of pain and torment." Giles burst forward, sending the displays crashing out of his way as he stalked the retreating man. He caught the preacher with an eager grip and pulled him in close for a quick assessment of what he was dealing with.
Caleb submitted to Giles' grasp, accepting his control as he chucked in response to the confident vampire. "That's a tall tale, friend. One for the history books. But we both know the reality of this situation."
The strange being was human. Giles could smell the aroma of hot blood and sweat. "Enlighten me."
"But you've heard it all before, Watcher. It's destined. Your dear, sweet Slayer will die. Not from the ravages of old age or from a courageous sacrifice in battle," Caleb snickered. "Her passing will come from the immortal kiss of a vampire."
"There's no such prophecy." Giles tried to sound convinced but failed miserably. There were many prophecies telling such tales. So many so that the council decided to stop recording them for fear that the lesser known prophecies would be overlooked.
"You believe all prophecies are told in dusty books, trapped within the confines of some stale aired hall of knowledge?" The preacher had Giles' undivided attention and the vampire hadn't even realized his demonic features had retreated, revealing his humanity. Caleb was fascinated as the semi-man unknowingly released his grip in wait for more information. The First was correct, he was forever the Watcher. "That Council of yours was only good for one thing... barbecue!"
"It was you," Giles realized. "You destroyed the Council."
"Aw shucks, it's so nice to be appreciated for my art." Caleb straightened his collar and took in a hearty breath. "Now I'm no fancy pants, educated scholar, so stop me if you heard this one," the charismatic preacher went into full sermon mode as he paced before the Watcher. "Goes somethin like this... echoing the silenced voice of hell, bathed under the cusp of a crimson moon, the false Chosen One will descend from grace. A victim of her own heart, she'll offer herself to a half-breed demon that will serve as her undoing. With intensions pure of...."
"Of virtue and in the spirit of love..." Giles joined in, matching word for word what Caleb spoke. "The beast will unintentionally take that which was never before stolen and the spirit of a Slayer will finally taste true evil." Giles gasped at the words sparking his memory. He knew this prophecy, though thought it to be of weak integrity. It was a familiar fairytale told within the pages of lore he'd read.
"Oh, see..." Caleb threw his hands up in overdramatic disappointment. "You have heard it. But then again, I'm no good at telling jokes."
"It's simply an anecdote passed down through the ages. Nothing more than speculation."
"Then why are you so bothered?"
'Could it be true,' Giles thought. "Neco de famulus..."
"To slay the servant. Catchy little hymn. My blind mice love that one."
"I'd considered the repercussions of such a relationship with her attachment to Angel, but excused my concerns when nothing came of it. When Spike came into play..."
"Sorry to interrupt your little flashback episode but I have business to attend to, people to save, whores to kill. Can we get on with...."
"Can I cut in?" Buffy marched up to the preacher and landed
a series of blows, each with marked precision that made Caleb
shuffle unsteadily backwards.
Caleb smiled at every jab, every kick, savoring the confrontation as Buffy attacked.
"Those are some mighty fine moves you got there...." the preacher struck with a hard backhand that sent Buffy spinning erratically towards Giles. He caught her, taking her into his steady arms, holding her still for a brief moment as he stared down into her perplexed expression. A horrific thought seized his mind. What if it was he who fulfilled the prophecy?
"Thanks," she mumbled and slowly pulled away from him as his concerned eyes followed her every step. "Sorry to interrupt your little talk," Buffy turned away, focusing her attentions back on the preacher. "And that male bonding thing is so hard to come by nowadays." She let loose with another attack and Giles remained frozen with dread. Was it indeed destined for him to make her suffer? The First warned of such an outcome and the prophecy the strange preacher spoke of was a familiar one, though somewhat questionable.
"Parties over," Buffy said cockily.
"But I'm just gettin in the mood," Caleb chuckled.
Spike suddenly flew by, completely out of control, colliding into a bin of pipe insulation and falling limp to the floor. Buffy shuffled through the mess to him as three uber vamps bounded through the opening followed by a team of Bringers.
Giles finally broke from his previous thoughts to weigh the dangers of trying his hand at magic or continue waging battle against an unknown adversary.
Buffy evaluated Spike's condition and strained to get to her feet. She immediately assumed a defensive posture, doubtfully prepared for the next surge of minions.
Giles could see her stare was hollow, drained, and he knew what he had to do.
With a discrete chant, he felt the familiar untamed current of majicks stinging his limbs. His body trembled as the black essences resonated throughout his frame. This magic wasn't akin to the magicks he'd used to spare Willow. It wasn't pure or clean. This power reeked of evil and darkness. Some disturbing part of him wanted nothing more than to savor its magnificence, bringing with it an unholy desire for destruction. The temptation was overwhelming, the craving tear into the very fabric of space surrounding him until nothing remained. It was the defiant vision of Buffy that finally grounded him back to the mission. Giles focused on what he'd intended to do, knowing he'd have to risk losing his control to give Buffy a fighting chance.
Much to the Slayer's surprise, a supernatural barrier enveloped her and Spike. She glanced over expectantly at Giles and was stunned to see his vampiric features now adorned with the frighteningly memorable accents of dark magicks Willow wore in their confrontation, the sinister veins and the mercilessly black eyes.
Giles repeated the spell once more to bolster the obstruction, enabling him to take extra care with the trickier spell to follow. The enchantment could be the death of him and Spike if he blundered so he struggled to concentrate as the fierce beasts surrounded him.
The final incantation sent a whirl of purplish sparks and black smoke spinning around the outer edge of the room. The mystical torrent began to flow toward the center of the space and Giles felt the first rip of the uber vamps claws at his torso as he blocked a separate attack from a Bringer.
"Buffy, cover Spike!" Giles yelled as another set of razor sharp claws tore into his back and thigh. He didn't have time to confirm if Buffy had followed his order. The whirlpool of smoke and light collapsed to a singular point then exploded outward, radiating blinding light beams that illuminated the dark and turned night into day within the store. He felt his hands and face scorching with the increasing luminosity and he dove towards some collapsed shelving just as the beams reached full brilliance.
The rushing uber vamps howled in pain as they were set ablaze. Caleb shielded his eyes at the spectacle but continued to watch with an impressed curiosity as the Bringers wandered aimlessly to find the cause of the attack. The light finally dimmed to shadows and the smoldering ash settled around him. The preacher smiled.
"Now that's what I call a welcome." He examined the dusty remains of his super vampires and nodded with appreciation at the sight. "You still movin' Watcher?" There was no answer.
Buffy peeked out from between her trembling fingers and saw the room
was dark once more. She cautiously slipped off of Spike and quickly checked him over.
Spike glanced around nervously and gave her an uncertain nod. "Seem so." They struggled to their feet and examined the wreckage for Giles. "How bout Giles?"
"I don't see him," Buffy felt panicked and rushed forward only to be stopped abruptly by the magical barrier still holding strong. "Giles?" She yelled but still no answer and she was immediately concerned.
"Aw now, that's a crying shame." Caleb shook his head. "And I was really beginning to take a liking him."
"You better be gone before this spell gives out," Buffy seethed.
"Or what? You'll punish me? Silly child, you haven't got what it takes." Caleb approached the barrier and reached for it. The mystical wall sent him bowling backwards into his waiting Bringers and Caleb angrily worked to get upright. "Ok, a bit fool-hearty on my part. I can admit that." He whistled a few notes and the Bringers began to retreat. "Well, it's been fun but I've gotta get my boys to bed now. We'll be seeing you real soon. Don't you worry your pretty little mind. I'll have legions of those vampires to bury you all right and proper. Best get your rest Slayer, you and those whores of yours. 'Cause hell's a coming and your fresh out of hope."
Buffy could barely contain her anger as the strange preacher strolled pompously away with his surviving minions. Spike continued to scan the darkness for Giles.
"Giles?" he yelled and gave the magical barrier a slight prod. The crackling energy dissipated and with a slight blink of light it was gone. Buffy rushed around the store in search of the missing Watcher.
"Giles!" she hollered and tossed the ruins aside, clearing a path of any possible shelter he might have found.
"Come on. Giles," Spike followed Buffy's lead and started to tear apart any possible cover. "Can't piss off on us now."
"Giles," she choked out his name, growing more fretful with the absence of a response. The interior of the store was in shambles and Buffy's heart sank with the recognition of the devastation. "Giles!" Her voice cracked as she spoke, barely audible. She couldn't help thinking she'd lost him again and started to weep. "Please..."