Xander skidded the car to a halt out front of the White Wolf
Lodge, Buffy handing out weapons even before the car had come
to a complete stop. She was strapping something to her back
as she got out.
She looked up at the full moon. The night was a plus for
the most part, given that they really didn't want the whole
of Whispering Pines to know about their extracurricular activities,
but it also lent itself to less fun surprises.
"We're not alone," she muttered before they'd even
made the front office.
The others looked around worriedly.
Xander shrugged. "I don't see anything. What is it,
"Drusilla?" Willow guessed.
"I don't think so. This is more like..."
They rounded a corner and found themselves face to face with
a very large, bluish coloured demon. Behind him, several vampires
in game face stood poised.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Looks like not everybody was
unhappy to see Drusilla." She moved and the demon lunged,
the quills along its spine suddenly standing straight up with
a snap as it attacked... a forbidding sight... and sound.
At first they fought blow for blow, then Buffy tried to end
it by staking the creature in the heart. It howled in pain,
but it was not a mortal wound. After momentarily staggering
backwards, it lumbered forward again.
Behind it, Xander was grappling with a large male vampire.
Willow was holding two others in suspended motion, though
the effort required to match their struggles was beginning
to tell on her, preventing her from moving forward to stake
them, lest she lose concentration in the process.
Two more vampires leaped down from the roof of the motel
as the fight between Buffy and the demon was rejoined. She
was getting battered, vulnerable to the sheer size and the
strength of the creature, which easily matched her blow for
blow, muscle for muscle. The only difference was that it was
When the split-second chance finally arrived, Buffy moved
so fast the demon didn't see it coming. She dived low and
swept its legs out from under it in a classic martial arts
manoeuvre. By the time it hit the ground she was on top of
it, Giles' favourite sword drawn from the scabbard on her
Thankfully it only took one blow and the body, again thankfully,
turned to ooze the moment the head was separated from it.
"Eiew!" Buffy exclaimed as blue slime seeped through
the knees of her pants, then got up and looked around for
the others. "Crap!"
She reached Xander just as he staked his second vampire.
Willow now had three of them suspended but she was clearly
in great pain, her strength almost gone.
Between them, Xander and Buffy staked the immobilized vamps
without difficulty, then rushed to their friend, who'd dropped
to her knees.
"What happened, Will?"
"Yeah, what happened to bad-ass Super-gal Willow?"
Xander demanded, concern making his tone more brusque than
usual as they helped her to her feet.
"Sorry, guys. I don't know. I should have been able
to hold them easily but you don't know how hard it was...
I could feel them fighting me... it was like... like the magickal
equivalent of being made to fight with one hand tied behind
Buffy let go of her arm, impatient to be moving. "Giles
has got to be close by. We're going to have to go room to
Xander gestured for Buffy to help support Willow again. "Wait
here." He was gone before they could object and back
"I checked with the desk. There are only four rooms
occupied tonight and those two over there," he pointed
to a couple of doors with cars out front, "are couples.
And that one down there is a group of four back-packers,"
he added, indicating a stand-alone cabin.
"That leaves one right at the back. Room seventeen.
He said it was signed and paid for by a..." he effected
an appropriate voice, "... 'good-looking young fella,
looked like he escaped from the seventies.'"
"Vampire," Buffy growled. "Probably the one
with the half unbuttoned shirt and the seriously big collar
and gold chain, not to mention the even scarier tight, polyester
Giles looked up as two vampires burst into the room and locked
the door behind them.
Drusilla looked bemused. "Where's my Nokkie?"
"Slayer'n hers got him. And Abe, Tommy, and Rick."
"And Cal and Irv," added the other one angrily.
"All gone. Nobody said anything about a Slayer."
Drusilla's expression changed from amused to terrifying.
"Are you scared of the big bad Slayer? Don't you want
to play any more?"
The vampire subsided swiftly. "S-sure I do. I just didn't
come here to watch all my buddies get dusted by a bunch of
Giles couldn't help but smile to himself, despite the pain.
Wouldn't they love that description? After all they'd been
through, all they'd accomplished...
'Snot-nosed kids, indeed...'
"Well good, then. They're almost here," she said
smugly and moved stand beside the chair.
Giles was startled to feel cold steel pressed against his
The two vampires positioned themselves either side of the
"Seventeen," Buffy announced redundantly as they
worked their way along the row of room doors.
"Okay, so what's our... "
The door splintered under Buffy's boot.
"... Strategy going to be?" Xander shrugged and
launched himself after his friend.
Willow, sensing what was inside, began an incantation to
saturate the room with Holy water... except that at the moment
the last word of the spell left her lips both the building...
and Willow... were hit by a torrential downpour instead.
"Arrghh!!" Dripping wet, she balled her fists and
stamped her foot in frustration, before hurtling in after
When the door shattered, Giles found the knife blade digging
into his neck, pushing against the carotid artery Drusilla
had so coveted earlier.
Heart in her throat, Buffy skidded to a halt, flanked quickly
by the two vampires, and stared in disbelief at the sight
in front of her. A part of her flooded with relief at the
sight of her Watcher alive and in relatively one piece, while
a part of her was horrified at the visual evidence of the
pain he'd obviously suffered and was still suffering. However,
the Slayer part... the warrior... was focused on the insane
Drusilla, Buffy's instinctive desire for vengeance overlaid
by a deathly fear of what the vampire might do with that knife
before there was any chance to stop her. If Dru opened that
artery, Giles would pump out his lifeblood long before the
ensuing battle was done...
Xander stumbled in behind Buffy and staked one of the vampires
before it could even turn. He looked up, pleased with himself,
realised his error and shrugged self-consciously at the scowling
"Sorry. My bad," he told her, and dropped the stake.
His gaze dropped to the chair. "Uh... Hey, Giles."
Giles rolled his eyes, but the pressure of the blade precluded
much else in the way of movement or speech.
Buffy stared at the knife, her insides feeling like jelly.
"What do you want, Dru? Whatever it is, we can talk about
"Want? I want them all back. But I can't have them,
can I? I want the stars to talk to me again and I want my
dollies. I want my dinner. I want my Spike. What do you want,
Slayer? Shall I tell you?" Her tone became a taunt. "I
could take it away before you even knew you wanted it..."
She giggled and nuzzled Giles' ear before biting the lobe
until she drew blood. She licked it off with a flourish. "He
tastes sweet... like revenge."
"Leave him... oomph." Buffy suddenly stumbled forward
when Willow ran headlong into her back. Xander grabbed the
over-balancing witch and righted her as Buffy collected herself.
Giles closed his eyes and sighed.
"Are there any more?" Drusilla asked. "Because
this is a silly game and I don't like it."
Willow stared at the scene before her and swallowed. Giles...
She was helpless. It wasn't fair. It was like she'd used
up all her magick credits defeating The First and now the
account was empty. She didn't dare try anything else.
"Your game sucks, too," Buffy retorted. "Let
him go and we'll settle this, you and me..."
Drusilla grinned like the cat with the cream, stroking Giles'
hair with her free hand as she spoke. "Oh, I intend to
settle things, and sweet Rupert is going to be my little helper."
Xander half-moved forward. "Leave him alone," he
said through his teeth.
The knife moved subtly and the vampire smirked, though her
eyes were glittering dangerously. "You wouldn't want
to hurt my feelings now, would you, little boy?" She
traced a circle around the eye beneath the bruise on Giles'
brow. "I could turn him into a pirate, you know, just
The knuckles of Xander's clenched fists whitened, but he
stepped silently back to Buffy's side.
"Tell me what you want!" Buffy demanded.
"Just don't hurt him anymore," Willow interjected.
Drusilla laughed. A sound that always sent chills down the
spine. "Aren't we having fun? Rupert is having such a
lovely time, just like he did when he played with Daddy. Now
that was fun... well, perhaps not as much as it would have
been if he'd played properly and actually made a noise...
even a little one. Poor Angelus. His feelings were hurt."
Buffy's face had gone blank and hard. Her eyes were like
icy diamonds. The others stared at Giles, whose eyes remained
closed, remembering what it was like for him in those early
days after he was rescued.
"I'll fight you for him," Buffy said suddenly,
her eyes glued to the Watcher, her gut twisting at the expression
on his pale, sweat-damp face. "If it's all about me,
then fight me. You kill me, you win... he goes free. I kill
you, I win... he still goes free."
The vampire snickered. "You cheat. I like that."
She leaned down and brushed her lips across Giles' now-dry
ones. "And I like him too." Her expression changed
to one of disapproval. "You don't deserve him. I think
he'd be more fun with me." Once again she leaned down,
this time on the opposite side to the blade, and mouthed his
Giles tried to pull back, but the blade followed.
"Mmm... salty Watcher," she giggled as she straightened,
then her face puckered into a pout. "I wish Spike was
here. Vince is pretty... aren't you, Vince? But you're not
The remaining vampire dutifully nodded his head.
Willow shifted uncomfortably. Drusilla's meandering made
her want to scream, to tell her to get on with it already,
but the insane vampire was capable of anything and about as
predictable as a cut rattler.
She looked up at Xander. The look on his face was truly homicidal.
Willow had never seen that kind of cold rage on her friend's
face before. Lately they'd seen precious little of any kind
of real emotion there. Even back when Angelus... Xander had
been young and most of his reactions had been petulant and
full of hate, but hot-blooded, brooding hate, not the cold,
murderous kind now flashing in his dark eye. She turned swiftly
to look at Buffy.
If possible, Buffy's expression frightened Willow even more,
except when the Slayer's glance dropped periodically to the
hunched figure tied to the chair. Then for a brief moment,
naked, aching grief replaced the blank, hard features, before
the window closed again and Buffy focused once more on his
"Okay," Buffy said carefully. "You let Giles
go, and I come over there and sit in the chair. You play with
me instead. I'm the one you want, anyway."
Giles' eyes flew open, staring straight at Buffy and dilating
with the strength of his disapproval. The effort, however,
was futile. She was completely and utterly focused on Drusilla.
He scowled at his helplessness and closed them again.
Drusilla looked at Buffy speculatively. "You think I'm
stupid. You think I'm barmy, don't you? Not any more barmy
than a blind Slayer," she jeered. "Couldn't see
what was right there in front of you all this time. Who's
the stupid one, then?"
Buffy's brain hurt. Drusilla's ravings were the last thing
she needed right now. She wasn't going to get suckered into
playing riddles when Giles' life was on the line. 'Vince'
was hovering over her right shoulder, but he wasn't armed.
It would take very little to overpower and stake him, but
in that time Drusilla could easily kill Giles, or even possibly,
in his current condition, drink him and turn him. She didn't
dare to even contemplate that possibility.
"I'm not going to play your game," Drusilla continued.
"We're playing my game. I'm going to take him away from
you and there's nothing you can do about it, just like there
was nothing I could do to stop you turning my Spike into ashes..."
All three Scoobies rolled their eyes at the same time, and
Giles opened his again.
This time Buffy was looking right at him. "Are you okay?"
she asked immediately, echoed by Xander.
He made an affirmative expression, mostly using his eyes,
and smiled a ghost of a smile at her.
She shivered before managing an equally fleeting smile back,
her eyes full of speaking emotion, before they flicked up
to a gloating Drusilla.
"He loved you, you know."
The dark eyes lit up. "Who did? Who loved me?"
Buffy resisted the temptation to roll her eyes. "Spike.
Spike loved you. He came back to Sunnydale after you left
him. He was a broken man."
"Yeah," Willow added. "Cause h-he made me
do a love spell for you a-and everything. He would have killed
Xander and me if we didn't get... um... rescued."
"Exactly," Buffy confirmed, taking back control
of the conversation. "You were all he ever talked about,"
she lied. "He was pretty upset about that Drool demon,
"Chaos demon," Drusilla corrected distractedly,
her eyes full of stars and imaginings. "What did my sweet
boy say about me?"
Buffy's eyes widened and she turned to Willow helplessly.
"Um... Spike... he said he was going to torture you
until you loved him again. He said you liked... uh... um...
pretty jewels and pretty dresses..." Willow offered.
She frowned, trying to remember. "With girls in them,
I think he said. Eieww."
That disturbed Drusilla's mood, so Buffy rushed on. "You
remember... he said you were his salvation... his... his 'black
beauty.' He must have loved you a lot. Harmony said you were
all he talked about after you left him again for the Mould
"Fungus demon," Drusilla corrected without missing
a beat. "Him?" she snorted. "He didn't love
me, either. He wouldn't even steal things for me and he never
brought me rats with the morning paper. He was mean."
Unnoticed, Buffy had crept forward several inches during
the exchange. "Maybe there was a reason he was mean?"
she speculated provocatively, deliberately changing tack.
Drusilla's eyes narrowed, but her hand never slackened on
the knife. "What reason?" she demanded.
"What if... what if you weren't any good at... you know?
What if he was just trying to get away... like you did to
"You take that back! You take that back, now! Torgie
loved me. He did. He worshipped me. He was just mean.
"You wanna know what I think?" Buffy successfully
moved even closer. "I think Torgie was a loser, taking
Spike's cast-offs. I think Spike let you go. I think
he wanted us to believe he was still in love with you but
I think he was laughing his ass off at you and at us."
Drusilla's expression grew black as thunder. Buffy hoped
she wasn't making a fatal mistake.
She went on. "He didn't need you. You were holding him
back. He didn't need you to find the ring... the-the Gem of
Amara thingy. He only needed Harmony for that. I mean... if
he really loved you, would he have been sleeping with Harmony?
I mean, come on!"
"It's all lies! Spike loved me. He loved me! You're
just being mean. Why are you being so mean? At least I let
him love me. I didn't trample all over his poor little heart
while it was still all mine," she retorted, pausing to
play with Giles' hair. "Not like you, stupid, heartless
Slayer. Angelus took your eyes, and the funny part is you're
still blind." Drusilla smirked, and for one brief second
took her eyes off Buffy to lean down and idly kiss Giles'
It was enough for Slayer reflexes. Buffy, only a couple of
feet away now, surged forward, seized Drusilla and dragged
her away from Giles in a swift, calculated manoeuvre that
sent the vampire flying across the room with enough force
to knock a particularly bad picture of dogs playing poker
off its hook and send it crashing to the floor.
Buffy immediately turned to Giles. Startled, Vince made the
fatal mistake of trying to get to the dazed Drusilla, only
to shower the room with dust as Xander's spare stake buried
itself in his back.
"That wasn't nice!" Drusilla growled from her
position, spreadeagled, half on the floor, half up against
Xander moved toward her, stake in hand. "Oh you want
'nice'?" he asked, still sounding like Xander, but his
was a frightening visage as he dragged her to her feet. "You
should have thought of that before you hurt Giles; before
you hurt all of us."
"But it was such fun," she pouted and clawed at
the wrist Xander was holding. "You're hurting me. You're
a nasty, broken boy. I bet nobody loves you! In fact I bet—"
"Xander, no!" Willow's voice rang out, surprising
He turned, put the stake away, and brushed the dust off his
shirt, his face barely registering any emotion whatsoever,
except for another unpleasant little smile at the cloud of
particles in the air before he spoke to them.
"I bet you wish you'd just shut up."
Across the room, Giles' face remained unmoved as Drusilla's
shocked expression disintegrated into dust, though his eyes
glittered with almost predatory satisfaction. A moment later
they darkened with pain again.
Crouched alongside him, Buffy was equally impassive, only
the thunderous grey green eyes revealing her true feelings
as she watched Xander replace the stake in his boot.
It took her a few moments to loosen the bonds with which
Drusilla's demon henchmen had restrained Giles so cruelly.
His right hand looked horrible, a couple of the fingers at
sickening angles. The cords were stuck to his wrists by blood,
both dried and fresh, and he gasped as Buffy attempted to
peel them away. By the time she was done her hands were shaking,
not least from the realisation that the awful, lingering,
burnt smell was from the scorched tissue in several places
on Giles' chest.
Willow and Xander watched silently, waiting for a chance
to help. Willow's eyes widened and filled with tears, when,
instead of bringing his arms forward and stretching, Giles
continued to sit in much the same position, sounds of terrible
pain coming from him as he very, very slowly tried to move
Buffy shifted back in front of him again, concerned. "Giles?"
He was breathing hard, even gasping a little. "Pain,"
he whispered hoarsely. "Sh-shoulders, arms. Circulation...
She did not resist the expletive that came to her lips,
nor the wretchedness in her eyes.
"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry I didn't get here faster.
We had to find out where you were. It should have been as
simple as a location spell, but there's something wrong with
Willow's magick ... all the magicks, really... at least that's
what Jo thinks, anyway. She touched his bicep very tentatively.
"I didn't mean to take so long to find you," she
Giles could feel the warmth of her fingers through his sleeve
and see the misery in her eyes. His arms were almost level
with his sides, when he was finally able to speak.
"Y-you knew I was missing?"
"You were late. You said you'd be back by five. You're
never late," she pointed out, mock petulantly, the moisture
spilling over silently.
He smiled, slowly, painfully, but his eyes were very bright.
"You noticed," he teased, and smiled again, making
her smile back.
Both were wiped away by his visible pain as he struggled
to lift his hands to his lap. They were trembling badly by
the time he rested them gingerly on his thighs, only to lift
the damaged one again with an oath rarely heard to pass his
lips, when its own weight caused even more agonizing pain.
Buffy watched, horrified. "W-we should get you to the
He nodded. "Bathroom first."
For half a beat he continued to sit, and Buffy continued
to wait. Then he made an attempt to shift his legs. The way
his face twisted in pain both appalled her and made her realise
"Xander! Xander, quick!" He was there instantly.
"Giles needs to go to the bathroom. Could you...?"
Xander's face finally gentled as he looked down at the older
man. "No problem. We've done this before, haven't we,
Both men exchanged a look, which excluded both the girls
for a long moment. Then Xander carefully eased an arm around
Giles, but let the older man dictate the pace at which he
rose from the chair. It took a long while to get to the small
hotel bathroom, and the door remained closed for quite some
Buffy paced and fiddled absently with a stake. Willow sat
in silence, staring at the bloodstains on the empty chair.
When the men finally emerged, Giles' hair was brushed, his
shirt buttoned with what few were left, and his face was washed.
There was colour in his cheeks and relief in his eyes. He'd
stopped hunching and was almost walking under his own power,
now, despite the obvious and persistent pain in all his limbs.
The door of the house opened before Willow could find her
key. Dawn was there, Jo close behind her.
"Giles..." Dawn whispered, half in jubilation,
half in empathy, as Xander helped him inside, careful not
to bump the arm in the sling, with its splinted fingers and
dressings on the wrist to match the ones on the wrist of the
hand which was cradling it.
Giles looked up at the younger Summers girl, strain showing
on his face from the pain, and his various wounds being jarred
by all the movement, despite the numerous meds jabbed into
him at the ER. When he saw her stricken face, his own softened,
before he managed a small, reassuring smile.
Dawn smiled back, relief flooding over the youthful visage
despite the concern that still filled it. The smile faded,
and she suddenly seemed very young.
"Giles a-are you...?"
Xander, watching them both, spoke up quickly.
"It's okay, kiddo. You know how much Giles hates hospitals.
They couldn't wave good-bye fast enough, and you know we wouldn't
have brought him home if he wasn't okay."
Giles smiled at the explanation, and then at all of them
with gentle reassurance, before his eyes rested on Jo. Her
eyes were wide and frightened. She was staring at the bruises
on his face, the bandages on his arm. She was also astute
enough to realise just how much Xander was supporting him.
He met her stunned face with a sad smile.
"I'll be fine," he reiterated and smiled again,
before indicating that he wanted to move further into the
Buffy and Willow followed, Willow looking at the older woman
speculatively and Buffy unconsciously glaring at her as they
"Can I get you anything?" Willow asked as soon
as Xander settled him on the sofa. "Tea? Pillows? Anything...?"
"Tea would be wonderful," Giles allowed, gentle
amusement in his eyes, and mused silently that a whiskey chaser
really wouldn't hurt at this juncture.
Dawn bounced. "I'll get it. I'll be right back."
They watched her go before Willow turned back and rolled
her eyes affectionately. "She doesn't know how to brew
tea in a pot. I'd better go help."
Xander stood with his hands shoved in his pants pockets.
He caught the older man's eye in a questioning glance, not
moving until Giles nodded almost imperceptibly. A ghost of
a smile touched his lips before he cleared his throat.
"I'm... ah... gonna take Lessa's car back. Jo, can I
give you a lift? We can pick up the SUV on the way..."
The older woman nodded, but her eyes were on Giles.
"I didn't know. Everything you told me about what happened
to Sunnydale, what you and Buffy do... and I still had no
idea. I'm sorry, Rupert. Truly sorry."
"It's all right," he said softly and half-smiled.
"I was probably being rather ... pretentious." His
smile deepened a little at the memories the word summoned,
then his gaze shifted to his Slayer. "Things like this
don't happen every day..."
"They still happen way too much," Buffy rasped,
not loud enough for any one but Xander to hear. He looked
sharply at her, as Jo knelt at Giles' side.
She was watching, stone-faced, as the older woman reached
out and touched Giles' cheek.
For a long moment his eyes held Buffy's stormy ones, then
he looked up at Jo, his left hand coming up slowly to touch
the slender fingers.
"Go home, Jo. I'll be fine," he told her gently.
Then his expression changed to one of cynical amusement. "Looks
like I won't be going home next week after all." He gathered
himself and smiled at her just a little. "We'll talk
soon, I promise."
She nodded, her eyes sympathetic. "I-If you think it's
best," she agreed.
Very gingerly, Giles nodded, acutely aware of Buffy in his
peripheral vision. She still looked close to mutinous, and
continued to do so until the other woman had followed Xander
out of the room, and the front door had swung closed behind
The silence was suddenly very loud, both of them regarding
each other almost defensively, before Giles'gaze slid away.
It went on until Buffy couldn't stand it any more.
"W-was it... was it very bad?" she asked in a voice
that splintered into a hoarse whisper.
His eyes, currently focused on her left earlobe, shifted
to meet her gaze directly. They both knew what she was really
"Bad enough," he said very quietly, in a voice
that minimized nothing.
Buffy's face trembled. "I'm so sorry," she half
whispered, half choked. The tears came then and she was swiftly
at his side, her distressed face buried in the hollow of his
For a moment he was very still, then all the tension seemed
to leave him. He looked down at her, his eyes, despite the
tenderness in them, windows to a great weariness of soul.
Unable to move his damaged hand to comfort her, he finally
rested his cheek against her hair, aware of her momentary
Then, gradually the weeping quieted and her shoulders relaxed.
After another beat, her arm crept around his middle and she
curled up against him.
He shifted his cheek slightly against the soft hair, staring
at the axe hanging silently above the mantelpiece.
Finally, with a ghost of a smile, he closed his eyes.