Halloween Fic: Careful What You Ask For
The night sky was clear, allowing the light of the full moon to cast an eerie glow on the campground.
The group of friends sat on logs positioned around the crackling campfire, evenly spaced to take in all the heat they could.
The night air carried a crisp chill and Giles noticed Buffy shivering with the intrusion of a slight breeze.
He maneuvered closer to her and draped his wool jacket around her shoulders, not allowing her a chance to refuse it.
Buffy shook her head and tried to remove the offering but he pointed to Xander and insisted on not interrupting Xander’s tale.
Giles smiled at Xander’s enthusiasm as he excitedly told his scary campfire tale. |
"…and then, Ash realizes that the only way he can defeat his possessed hand is to cut it off with the chainsaw."
"Ok, that’s it for your story." Buffy interrupted with a wave her toasted marshmallow decorated stick at Xanders puzzled face.
"What? It’s a cult classic! How dare you question the Bruce!" he said, pointing a demanding finger toward the unbeliever.
"It’s supposed to be an original story!" Willow insisted.
"It is the way I tell it." Xander stuffed an untoasted marshmallow in his mouth.
"I’ve got scarier stories about shopping at Matrin’s Leather during the annual winter sale, Xand." Buffy flicked a blackened marshmallow into the campfire.
"OK, so it’s hard to frighten the Slayer. You’re a living breathing horror movie, Buff! Can’t beat the life experience of a true life vampire Slayer."
"You didn’t even try. You just retold a movie plot." Willow opened a package of graham crackers and offered them to Giles. He smiled graciously and refused.
"I would think you’ve all have quite enough horror in you’re lives to want imagine what unknown frights you’ve yet to experience." Giles said as he unwrapped a chocolate bar, snapped off a piece and tossed it in his mouth. Just as he broke off another small section, Buffy leaned toward him.
"Hey, that’s smores fixin’s there mister! Its camping law…chocolate must be merged with toasted marshmallow and graham crackers before consumption!" Buffy reached over and snatched the bar from Giles hand. He raised an eyebrow and saw her wink at him as she tossed a piece of the offending bar into her mouth.
"Pardon me for not understanding your mysterious customs. Besides, there won’t be any ‘smores fixin’s’ if Xander keeps hoarding the marshmallows." Giles looked crossly over the rim of his glasses at Xander.
Xander’s eyes darted between the members of the gang. Realizing he was in mid-munch of a marshmallow, he quickly swallowed the evidence and hid the bag behind his back.
"That’s quite enough watchin’ Watcher!" Xander folded his arms, pouting at the snickers emitting from the group. "Alright then…oh mighty reader of books…you’ve gotta have some scary stories to tell. You’ve read a lot of stuff and had to come across a few juicy tid-bits of horror."
"My studies focused on the historical significance of rituals and prophecies in the…"
"Excuse me…" Xander stopped Giles with a raised hand, "I thought it was a simple request. Telling campfire tales must be beyond the duty of a Watcher."
"That’s enough. I’m sure he knows plenty of scary stories." Buffy said with a warm smile at Giles who grinned at her defensive reaction to Xanders teasing. "Like that time when he couldn’t find the date stamp in the library and…"
"Oh, right…brilliant. Lets all gang up on me. I’ll have you remember whose idea it was to go camping on Halloween. I thought it would be a relaxing departure from the usual pangs of Sunnydale existence but far be it from me to ruin a good Giles bashing." Giles folded his arms, following Xander’s example, and pouted with a full-face scowl.
"Hey Giles…I know you have to have a whole heapin helpin of hideous high jinks to tell." Buffy said the words with a hint of exaggeration and then quickly felt bad for teasing him.
"Please tell us just one little story. Anything is going to be better than Xander’s weak attempt." Willow pleaded.
"Hey!" Xander objected and then nodded in agreement with the opinion.
"Please Giles. We really want to hear something scary." Buffy said with an apologetic glance.
Giles fought the urge to smile at Buffy and Willow’s encouragement; but he didn’t want to let them off so easy.
"I’m sorry but we haven’t time. I have some pressing business to discuss." He unfolded his arms and straightened his posture to suit his "all business" mood.
"Nope…no business. Just fun!" Buffy ordered with a smile.
"I’m afraid I have an ulterior motive in brining you all up here." Giles said seriously.
Xander pointed and accusing finger at Giles, "I knew it!" He pointed to Willow. "I told you, didn’t I. No vacation for the Scooby gang."
"Giles! You said this was a vacation from the fangs of Sunnydale." Buffy urged.
"Pangs, Buffy." Giles corrected.
"Actually, ‘fangs’ seems more appropriate in this case." Willow said with a grin, trying to keep the mood light.
"Yes, well…in any case, we do have a situation to investigate in these woods." Giles removed his glasses and began to rub the lenses with his handkerchief. "I knew you all would be hesitant to come here unless under false pretenses."
"You lied!" Xander corrected.
"I persuaded." Giles amended.
"You lied." Buffy overruled.
Giles looked to Willow for help who shrugged and poked her toasting stick at the fire, avoiding confrontation.
"Listen…there is evil in these woods and I intend to defeat it with or without…um, actually I’d rather hoped with you."
"Why lie? What makes you think we wouldn’t help?" Xander asked.
"Giles, we have experience with the evil defeating gig. What’s with all the secrecy and…um, deception about?" Willow was hesitant to use such an ugly word but didn’t know how else to describe it.
Giles expression was grim as he replaced his glasses and examined the faces of his young companions.
"There have been some ritualistic murders committed in these woods, just beyond this clearing. The b-bodies were discovered mutilated and oddly positioned by the river. Local authorities believe the murders to be inexplicable acts by rogue gangs passing through Sunnydale for LA. Based on the evidence, I suspect a more demonic cause." He put another log on the embers.
"What evidence?" Buffy asked then turned to Willow before Giles could answer. "I can’t believe I fell for this. I should have known Giles doesn’t have a shred of fun in him."
"I’m right bloody here!" Giles declared, upset she would say such a thing with him in earshot.
Willow nodded in agreement with Giles at Buffy’s tactlessness and grinned at him. "Please continue."
"Well, markings were left at the crime scenes. Carvings in the bark of the pine trees surrounding the location." Giles took a sip of his neglected cup of tea and almost spit out the tepid liquid. He stood up, poured out the cup and walked over to a large rock where he’d left his kettle. "I believe Xander pointed out one of the carvings as we came in." Giles filled the kettle with water from a large container and rejoined the group, placing the kettle on the log he’d added to the fire.
"I don’t remember that." Xander said defensively then his eyes widened. "Wait, you mean the heart shaped mark with the names carved in the center. That was just a someone loves someone forever type thing."
"Actually, had you examined the markings closer you would have noticed the outlining symbol that encircled the heart. The sign of shadow, representing the black heart of the Strathal." Giles waited for a reaction then smiled. "Well, you were preoccupied with Buffy’s new bathing suit at the time."
Xander’s face flushed with embarrassment. "Its October. I was worried she might catch cold."
"Who was murdered? " Buffy had to ask even though she really didn’t want to know the answer.
"W-well…um, " Giles took his glasses off and began to clean them again.
Buffy leaned toward him and covered his busy hands with hers. "They’re clean Giles. Who was murdered?" She quickly removed her hands when she felt him pull away.
It was Giles turn to blush at Buffy’s recognition of his nervous habit.
"S-some campers, college s-students from Sunnydale staying at this site. You may have heard about them in the Times last week. T-two couples and a dog." He stuttered.
"They killed a dog?" Willow whimpered.
"Ate it, actually." Giles explained.
Willow muffled another whimper.
"So what do we have here? Vampires, demons, psycho park rangers?" Buffy’s joking couldn’t hide her concern. Giles noticed her eyes scanning the darkness surrounding the campground.
"Great. So you trick us into coming up here…a group of college students camping at the very spot of a ritualistic massacre. What is this? Are we bait?" Xander shifted closer to the fire.
"You’re not a college student, Xander." Willow pointed out.
"Not important Wil." He replied; a bit miffed.
"Actually, I did hope we might draw out the evil dwelling in these woods by posing as possible targets." Giles waited for the inevitable fallout from his statement.
"Bait? I’m a freakin worm on a hook?" Xander whined, "And I’m so sweet and tasty."
"What kind of evil, Giles, a demon?" Willow tried to get back to business.
"I suspect a practitioner of the black arts is behind the whole ordeal but there is evidence of a more…inhuman element." Giles pulled out a tin and removed a tea bag, placing it in his cup. The group watched him calmly pour the boiling water from the kettle into the cup and set the kettle by the fireside.
Buffy’s impatience got the best of her. "Stop with the cryptic Giles! Spill it already. What are we dealing with?"
Giles eyes fell to his shoes and he took a deep breath. "Something you’ve never faced before Buffy. "
Everyone eagerly waited for the explanation. He stared forebodingly into the woods for a moment then his eyes panned slowly over to Buffy. "A creature capable of paralyzing its victims."
"Been there, slayed it!" Buffy said.
"A beast with a voracious appetite for human flesh." Giles continued.
"Visited that one before, creamed it!" Buffy smiled.
"It feeds off fear and anguish…"
"So…what’s new?" Buffy snickered.
"A being with the power to steal a Slayer’s strength and use it against her." Giles raised an eyebrow waiting for Buffy to top that one. Silence displayed everyone’s understanding and anxiety.
"Ok…you have my attention. What is it?" Buffy asked with a very serious tone.
"Strathal demon. Summoned from the…"
"Who cares? Time to go!" Xander stood up and pointed toward the tents. "I came here ready for weenie roasting, not for a Slayer skirmish."
"Hey…good point. Giles, did you bring any weapons? I mean I didn’t know I was packing for active duty here?" Buffy asked.
"Weapons are futile in waging battle against a Strathal demon. You will depend on your strength and your agility." Giles took a sip his tea. "And on Willow and Xander of course."
"What? M-me?" Xander stammered.
"I mean…of course I will help. I’m helping girl and all…but how? No weapons? Giles, what do we have to do?" Willow’s forehead creased with worry.
"Buffy will depend on you to translate the Strathalian manuscripts." Giles explained.
"What? Me?" Willow looked at Giles with disbelief. "Um, Giles…you’re the language guy here. You speak four languages…"
"Five." He interrupted.
"Five…there! Why don’t you translate?"
"I have my own duties to attend to." His eyes pierced the darkness once again.
"What do I have to do?" Xander paced around the fire.
"Xander, you will coach Buffy thru her battle."
"Oh, ok. I can be cheerleader for the Buffster." He sighed with relief.
"Um…no. Not quite. You will be her eyes, guiding her movements. You will command her…"
"What?" All three yelped in unison.
"Buffy will not be able to see the demon. It is invisible to the Slayer. Only a person, a true friend of the Chosen One can see through the demon’s mask and help her battle the Strathal." Giles took another sip of his tea.
"Gotta say, not lovin the game plan here G-man!" Xander urged.
"Giles, I trust Willow and Xander but without weapons…without seeing the demon…without…" Buffy began to raise a finger toward Giles and stopped, "Without anything?" Her eyes begged for more concessions.
"Giles, I don’t think we’re ready for this. We haven’t prepared or researched. I’m not sure this is the best way to go about this." Willow carefully chose her words, not wanting to offend him.
"Why aren’t you translating…why aren’t you commanding Buffy…where are you gonna be?" Xander stopped pacing and gawked at Giles.
"Um, yeah. I’d like to know…while we are all fighting and panicking, and probably dying, where will you be?" Buffy’s voice rang with anger.
Everyone stared at Giles, eager to hear about his mysterious duty that would keep him from fighting by their sides. He sat in silence, sipped his tea and looked up at his friends. A smile spread on his lips.
"In bed." He stood up and poured out the rest of his tea. He turned on a small flashlight he had unclipped from his belt and began to walk toward his tent. He paused at the front of his tent and looked back at his baffled friends. "Make sure you put the fire out before retiring. There is a container of water to drench the embers. " He pointed to the container he’d used earlier. "Goodnight. Pleasant dreams." And with a wicked grin, he disappeared into his tent.
They stood there in utter confusion until Willow started to giggle. Buffy and Xander turned to her with bewildered expressions.
"Not getting the joke here Wil. We’re on our own in this fight." Xander said impatiently.
"Are you scared?" Willow giggled.
"What? Uh yeah…anyone in their right mind would be scared." He answered sarcastically.
Buffy finally realized what had just happened and smiled with pride toward her Watcher’s tent. Xander saw her shake her head with disbelief.
"What gives?" he asked.
"You’re challenge was accepted and met Xand!" Buffy explained.
"Yeah…Happy Halloween!" Willow snickered.
Xander’s concerned expression melted into relief and he smiled. "He doesn’t play fair!" He picked up the container of water and began to pour it on the fire. "I like that."
Everyone disappeared into their respective tents and settled in for the night.
Hours past as Buffy lay wide-awake, staring up at the moon through the mesh vent in the roof of her dome tent. Visions of Giles telling his story flooded her mind. She realized that the whole episode was just a scary story he’d weaved for their amusement but something troubled her. She’d fallen for the ruse too easily. Buffy usually wasn’t so gullible but Giles had easily ensnared her into his trap. How did he play with her so effortlessly and why did she let him.
‘I want to talk to him,’ she thought. ‘But why?’ She sat up and looked around her tent, searching for something, anything she could use as an excuse for seeing him. She noticed Giles wool jacket and smiled.
Continue to part two...(warning...naughty!)