Act Four


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, Buff?"


"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 tiring faster.

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 back.

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 your back."

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 room."

Xander gestured for Buffy to help support Willow again. "Wait here." He was gone before they could object and back moments later.


"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 pants."

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 snot-nosed kids."

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 throat.

The two vampires positioned themselves either side of the door.

"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 the others.

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 Drusilla.

"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 it."

"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 like you."

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 neck meaningfully.

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 Spike."

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 captor.

"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, y'know."

"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 demon."

"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 Spike...?"

"You take that back! You take that back, now! Torgie loved me. He did. He worshipped me. He was just mean. That's all."

"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' temple.

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 the wall.

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 even her.

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 his arms

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... r-returning."

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 added forlornly.

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 hospital."

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 her error.

"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, big guy?"

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 time.

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 house.

Buffy and Willow followed, Willow looking at the older woman speculatively and Buffy unconsciously glaring at her as they passed by.

"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 them.

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 talking about.

"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 good arm.

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 stiffening.

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.


Act 3   End Credits

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