Greater Good Part 21/27: Tell Me
“Right! This is cozy…” Spike growled as he examined the abandoned church with a wary eye. “Of all the bloody places to set up base!” He weaved through the pale shadows shed along the narrow path leading to the old Catholic cathedral. As he timidly reached out to grip the door, it swung back and a stake struck him mid chest, burying shallowly just shy of his heart. He roared in pain as Rona pulled the weapon back with an apologetic glance.
“Oh… sorry… sorry, wasn’t expecting anyone,” She moved aside to grant him entry.
“I don’t know which to be more pissed about, trying to dust me or failing miserably with the attempt,” he grasped at the fresh wound as he moved past her and into the dark building as a feeling of dread washed over him. “Everyone accounted for?”
“Didn’t lose anyone, Mr. Spike,” Vi stepped up and offered a temperate smile.
“Where’s Oz?” Willow rushed up to block the vampire’s path as the two Potentials rejoined the others.
“I don’t know. We split up,” Spike examined the tired and shaken crowd huddled in a corner of the room. “No worse for ware. No surprises then?”
“They did great,” Xander came up behind Willow, eagerly displaying his enthusiasm for the girls’ performance. “They took out a couple fast running Bringers and did it solo.”
“It’s not gold medal slayage but it’s a start,” Spike checked his wound and could tell it had already begun to heal. The little Bringer snack he’d treated himself to had done the trick. After lighting up a smoke, the vampire moved toward the front of the nave, his troubled gaze darting along the decorative stained glass windows casting and eerie light down on him. “Is Buffy here?”
“No, we haven’t had a chance to search for her yet,” Willow explained.
“Just as well, no sense risking the little ones. The boss wouldn’t like that,” he puffed away anxiously on his cigarette. “I’ll go look for her.”
“In broad daylight?” Xander questioned.
“Look who suddenly cares,” Spike snickered.
“Hey, don’t care,” Xander grew defensive.
“I’ll wait till sundown,” Spike smiled. “Besides, she’ll probably check back at the old habitat first.”
“I stopped back there before I headed this way…” everyone looked back to see Oz hurriedly entering the church to join them. “She wasn’t there.”
“What… so we wait? Hold up here until we can find her,” Xander suggested apprehensively. “What if she’s in trouble? What if she needs us?”
Oz noticed the small stockpile of candy bars set up on the stage and felt his mouth water. “I can go search for her. But I really need some food first,” He motioned toward the stack of goodies. “You mind?”
“Please… you earned it,” Willow smiled. “Wolf takes a lot out of you?”
“Yeah, package deal. Monster appetite with the monster.”
“So, quick refuel and then we hit the streets to fetch the Buffster?” Xander suggested.
“And what if you run into our friends out there? What’ll you do? Give them a good running away?” Spike snickered.
“Maybe you should stay here?” Willow asked as Dawn ran up and tackled Oz in a hug.
“They want the Potentials, not us. You, Faith and Spike do the bodyguard thing,” Xander explained.
“It’s too dangerous!” Willow argued.
“That’s why I think it would be better for a small group to go, just in case something bad…” he paused and glanced over at Oz and then to Spike. “So someone could get word back if the worst…”
“Yeah, good thinking,” Spike said, getting a raised brow in response to the unexpected compliment. Dawn joined the discussion with a motion toward Oz and Xander and then herself.
“No way, Dawn, Buffy would kill…”
She gave him urgent push and waved a hand in the air, dismissing the concern as she pointed toward the door.
“You aren’t gonna take no for an answer, are you?” He asked and got a definitive nod. “So that makes three for the fox hunt,” Xander hesitantly agreed and Dawn beamed with delight. “But food first!” Dawn nodded in agreement and they all moved to join Oz in the feast of sugar.
It was well past noon by the time Buffy guardedly stepped through the threshold of the absent door. The first impression of the landscape was grim but as she examined the ruins further, she noticed no sign of any deceased Potentials, family or friends; only the shredded carcasses of Bringers and the recognizable thin residue of crispy ash coating the immediate area. As she tiredly shuffled forward, she inspected the trashed wreck of her home with a halfhearted eye. Nothing was left, every piece of furniture was left tattered, every picture shattered to bits. But Buffy didn’t care, not anymore. All she wanted was for her friends and family to be safe and for the Potentials to be ready to face the First and its rising army of the undead.
She didn’t know why she had her sudden wind of confidence but felt the strange axe-like weapon held the answers she wanted. It hummed with power, sending waves of strength and self-assurance through her.
“Anyone home?” She called out unenthusiastically, not really expecting an answer. She set the scythe down on the busted couch and tried to prop the buckled door upright to offer some feeble barrier of protection from the outdoors. After the deed was done, Buffy felt her body weaken as the lingering after affects of adrenalin faded away. Her ordeal with Caleb had finally caught up with her. She needed sleep, and though the shell of a house wasn’t the safest location, she needed to wait for Giles. Taking up the red shimmering scythe in her waning grip, she slowly walked the empty halls to check the vacant rooms. As she rounded the turn into her bedroom, she moved to her bed, slumped forward onto the mattress and was asleep in seconds.
Buffy nuzzled her comforter, enjoying the warm, welcoming fabric as she slowly began to wake up. Her body ached it’s disapproval from her slight movement, every lump and cut stung and thumped, still struggling to heal but she felt better than she had, there were definite benefits to being a Slayer.
As she rubbed the sleep from her weary eyes, a strange shiver traveled up her spine and she searched the shady room for what could be causing the unusual effect. A shadowed silhouette caught her eye at her bedroom window, sitting leisurely on the window sill, one leg bent and resting on the sill, head tilted back against the scuffed up window frame. Bluish moonlight rained down, highlighting the striking contours of Giles’ face as his eyes scanned the night, steadfastly keeping watch. Buffy remained still, taking a moment to admire the view of the captivating man studying the stars as they crept along the blackened sky, sadly doubting whether he was another trick of the First or the real man.
“It’s me,” he said softly with a subtle grin forming along his lips.
“And that’s supposed to win my trust?”
“I would hope not,” he reached beside him and lifted up a very amusing stuffed animal. “But your pig might help alleviate some of your doubts.” He gave the toy a quick pat on the head and tossed it to her, watching as she caught it and pulled it lovingly to her chest. She nodded her approval of the action but quickly forged a teasingly shocked look.
“His name is Mr. Gordo and I would suggest you keep your hands to yourself,” she gave the pig a hearty squeeze and kiss. “He’s got me through many hard nights. Tell me I won’t be needing his services tonight,” Buffy teased and saw Giles’ expression turn serious. “You look like a man who’s deep in thought,” Buffy smiled.
“Then the illusion is complete…” Giles answered, continuing to focus on the stars.
“A shilling for your thoughts?”
He glanced to her out of the corner of his eye. “Shilling?”
Buffy gingerly lifted herself upright up and shrugged. “I don’t have a penny.”
“But you have a …”
“No…” she combed her hair away from her face, giving him an inhibited smile. She wanted to rush into his arms but her instincts told her he needed the small distance between them. “…just trying to be cute.”
“You’ve succeeded. But then you always do,” he returned
his gaze to the sky and Buffy blushed from the uncharacteristic compliment.
“How do you feel?”
“Good,” Giles smirked. “Because after your little episode of ‘do the exact opposite as Giles told me’ the First will no doubt be plotting a counter offensive.”
“It was stupid to go there alone, I know. But I couldn’t risk loosing …” Buffy went silent and Giles glanced over to see her troubled expression. “Risk losing you again.”
He fixed his eyes on the shadow pattern decorating the floor, already knowing what tricks the First had used to lure her into such a devious trap.
“It won’t happen again,” she concluded as she nervously shifted to the edge of the bed, hanging her legs off the mattress and folding her hands in her lap, reading herself for a mouthful from Giles.
“It won’t,” he repeated in a solemn whisper and turned back toward the window.
“Are you ok?” She asked softly. “I mean injury wise?”
“Nothing life threatening,” he smirked.
Buffy shook her head at his peculiar jest, “More with the funny?”
“I’m tired but otherwise unharmed.”
“Good.” Buffy didn’t really believe him but didn’t want to press the issue. She looked at the new weapon lying beside her on her bed. “So… any clue what this little doodad does?”
“It’s a scythe…a weapon.”
“Wow… and you got all that by what… looking at it?” She said sarcastically.
“I’ve had some information gathered on it,” his eyes continued to scan the darkness and Buffy wondered if he was actually seeing anything out there or just avoiding looking at her .
“How? With what? There’s nothing left, Giles.”
He revealed his newly acquired satellite phone and tossed it sideways to her without any care for its safe delivery. She caught it and gave him a curious look as she examined the unlikely addition to her Watcher’s accessories. She pushed the buttons and got no sign of life from the piece. “It’s dead.”
“That it is,” he sighed, letting his head fall toward the window pane.
“But I thought the Council was… well, leveled. Who’d you contact?”
“An associate,” Giles mumbled, drawing his finger along the smudging glass.
“Stop with the secret square stuff, Giles. Who?”
“Wesley researched the scythe, discovered its origins.”
Buffy seemed initially shocked but kept her cool exterior. “You told Wesley about you?”
“No,” Giles said quickly. “I explained the situation with the First, nothing more. He recovered some facts about the scythe and its purpose. Its creation is still a mystery but one thing is certain,” he looked over at her with an intent look. “It’s meant to be the weapon of the Chosen One. It was meant to be wielded by a Slayer.”
“That’s of the good then, right? I have a new secret weapon!” She said brightly. “Ok, it’s not so secret anymore seeing as how we actually took it from those we would use it on but hey… gift horse, right?”
“Seems so,” Giles responded shortly and Buffy knew there was something more to the story.
“What’s with the gloominess?”
He let the uncomfortable quiet intensify before answering. “In my request for information, Wesley’s found something else.”
Buffy was ready for the other shoe to drop; she’d learned good news often came hand in hand with bad news. “What?”
“There is a prophecy…” he carefully watched Buffy’s expression as he gingerly started the story, knowing full well that she would not agree with his decisions on the matter.
“And something tells me it doesn’t end with ‘happily ever after’,” she said impatiently.
“No… it doesn’t.”
“So it has something to do with this, the First? With us? With how things between us are…”
“Different,” Giles finished concisely and they exchanged a troubled look. After an uncomfortable moment of silence, he recalled the almost forgotten words Caleb had reminded him of and decided to allow Buffy to interpret their meaning on her own.
“Echoing the silenced voice of hell, bathed under the cusp of a crimson moon, the false Chosen One will descend from grace…” he glanced over at Buffy who sat motionless, listening intently as he continued on. “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 virtue and in the spirit of love, the beast will unintentionally take that which was never before stolen and the spirit of a Slayer will finally taste true evil." Giles could see Buffy working out the tale in her mind, searching for some discrepancy she might offer to refute the outcome but he knew there was no way to be sure.
“You knew this before…” she searched his stare for some hint of a reaction. “It’s why you left?” Her eyes were filled with hurt.
“I left because I needed to work some things out,” he lowered his head into his hands, rubbing his fingers along his temple and trying to remain focused on what needed to be done rather than what he wanted to do.
“Are they worked out?”
“I believe so.”
“You aren’t staying, are you?” After a moment of hesitation, Buffy watched Giles respond only with a pained look as he lowered his gaze to his hands. “Would it change your mind if I told you I love you?”
“P-please… d-don’t say that.”
“Why? It’s the truth!”
“It’s a mistake.”
“You’re an asshole!”
“I suppose I am,” he glanced over at her with a sad stare. “But I’m also right.”
“God Giles…” Buffy jumped to her feet and started to pace back and forth beside her bed, “…why now? Why couldn’t we see it then?”
“It?” Giles cocked a curious brow.
“Us… this… you and me and the feelings thing. Why didn’t we see it then?”
“When it all started?”
“And when did it all start?” Giles offered a weak smile.
“I don’t know…” Buffy waved a hand in frustration. “All this time together and what have we got to show for it? Heapin’ bowls of heartache and dusty shoes and for what?”
“I’d like to believe we’ve made a difference in the world,” Giles suggested.
“Have we?” Buffy shrugged. “Does it stop? Does it ever stop?”
“You’ve stopped apocalypses…”
“Stopped or postponed?” she corrected.
“There will always be battles to wage, Buffy.”
“And there will always be cryptic prophecies, Giles!” she said, exasperatedly. “They are never-ending, aren’t they? And we blindly follow them but at what cost?” Buffy asked despairingly, pausing her frustrated pacing to face him. “I’ve died twice, you’ve died once. We’ve both buried people we love and hurt those we promised to protect.”
“And you’ve saved countless lives from the very same death and destruction we’ve suffered through together. It is our duty.”
“I don’t know from duty,” Buffy shook her head. “I know from loneliness… I know from pain.” Her expression cried for something she knew he wouldn’t give.
“What do you want me to say?” He asked with an indifferent tone but Buffy could see the hurt lying behind his sharp emerald stare.
“Tell me you love me, dammit!” she choked out, finally admitting what her heart needed so badly to hear.
Giles turned away, diverting his telling eyes. “You know I do.”
“Say it!” Buffy yelled, her voice cracking with emotion as it echoed throughout the empty house.
“Buffy, why do this to yourself…”
The determined Slayer stormed over to the stubborn Watcher and slapped him hard across the face as her eyes quivered with anger. He remained seated, showing no sign of defense, staring compassionately at the irate young woman accosting him. She slapped him again, wanting desperately to get some reaction from him. His cheek stained a purplish blue for an instant and then the bruise washed away with the aid of his demonic healing, a subtle reminder of the reality of what he’d become. Buffy waited for a response that never came as Giles just watched her, his green eyes staring at her from under a concernedly crinkled brow. She felt her anger overtaking her and she drew back for another blow. As her hand flew, Giles caught her wrist just before she reached his face and he held her trembling hand an inch before him.
Buffy’s eyes welled up with tears, pleading for him to say something, anything, and even though his eyes echoed her misery, he couldn’t speak. Her breath caught as he slowly brought her fingers to his mouth, gliding them along his silken lips, fighting off the urge to kiss each one as he enjoyed the simple touch of her skin. She leaned in, hoping for more of his gentle attention as he closed his eyes to relish the intimate contact. She let her other hand cascade down his forehead, along the length of his cheek and tickled her fingertips along his firm chin. Giles opened his eyes, gazing longingly at her and knew perfectly well what he had to do.
“We can’t,” He said with a strained whispered. She let out a weighty sigh as she leaned in, resting her forehead to his, refusing to pull away and for a moment, Giles considered the consequences of giving in to their passions. “You know we can’t.”
Her breathing grew labored as her mouth brushed along his; instinctively seeking out the kiss she craved more than anything else. With a blink, a single tear escaped from her shimmering eye. “Then just tell me you love me,” she whispered against his lips and Giles could swear he felt his dead heart breaking at her wounded cry.
“I love you,” he spoke along her inviting lips, unconsciously pressing ever so slightly with wispy caresses, “I always have.” He felt another of her tears dampen his cheek as she gently kissed him and he couldn’t pull away.
Without warning or sound, an insistent hand grabbed at Buffy and tore her away from Giles. The Watcher’s eyes jolted open just in time to watch a wooden stake plunge clean through his upper chest, just below his collarbone and out his back, shattering the window behind him. Buffy rushed to help the impaled vampire and froze at the sight of the attacker still grasping the stake, pinning Giles to the wall with his forearm.
“Giles?” the assailant gasped in shock and Giles winced with pain as he struggled to look at the man attempting to dust him. “I… I didn’t know…”
“Angel?” Buffy watched as his eyes nervously darted between Buffy and the wounded Watcher.
“But I could sense… I thought there was a vampire… I thought it was Spike…” Angel stammered, still pinning Giles to the wall.
“Not Spike…” Giles growled and Angel turned back to face him only to find the familiar features of a vampire staring furiously back at him. “…but you’re instincts are not all wrong.”