Title: In the Morning Sun
Length of chapter: 4,100
Setting: Post Chosen but AU straight away. So no comics and no Angel Season 5.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Joss characters but I would if I could
Warning: This is BUFFY/GILES but fasten your safety belts because it's going to be a bumpy ride.
It was obscene. It was like the most grotesque mirror Buffy had ever looked at. Her vampire double wore heels and tight black leather pants with a red halter top. Her hair was shoulder length and actually looked good, but was this what Giles thought of her? The vampire stood with hands on hips, smirking at her obvious victory: she had power and she knew it. From around the church, six other vampires approached to encircle the party. The two largest joined her side, acting as an honour guard and deterring any challenges to her authority. She was smart enough to have gathered a group, and to keep herself at the centre whilst the others served, smart enough to keep loyal bodyguards so those that served wouldn’t get ideas of power sharing.
“Oh I’m sorry. Did I just kill your boyfriend? Oops, my bad.”
Buffy heard growling behind her as three more vampires surrounded her. Ethan had been killed so instantly, the shock had barely registered. If he’d had a way home up his sleeve, it had died with him, and now she was trapped with no Slayer powers to fall back on.
A canister of smoke clattered on the stone of the church arch, and then bounced between them. It hissed a yellow gas and spun itself around as it did so. The vampire version of herself seemed singularly unimpressed to say, “Oh Rupert, is that the best you’ve got?” At which point a firebomb burst into view, hitting and immediately incinerating the vampire holding Buffy. Her hair was scorched with the sudden fireball but she had experience enough to know that when artillery arrives it signals that it’s a good time to run.
The vampires ran too, but cross bolts dipped in petrol and set alight picked them off as they fled, causing more panic. Buffy hoped to god whoever was firing didn’t target her. Smoke was billowing from the church and into Restfield, and she lost sight of her evil twin, which was a plus, but then she tripped and fell and one of the nameless vampires quickly descended upon her. Kicking him savagely she squirmed free, but the pain only made him more determined. Buffy fought as best she could, using all her guile to thwart his clumsy attempts at capture. Seizing her opportunity, Buffy drove a stake into his chest, but she lacked the strength to break through and reach the heart. He began to laugh, but then Buffy was pushed forcefully from behind. The sudden impact drove her forwards and, though fearing her wrist might break first, she hung on to the stake as her momentum drove the wood in deeper and the vampire exploded to a familiar dust. Alas, as he did so, she was too unbalanced and crashed to the ground, almost staking herself on the follow through. Her face exploded in pain as it made hard contact with a flattened grave marker and her nose filled with blood.
There was no time to worry about it though, because she was immediately pulled up rather violently by her jacket. Her arms were pulled back uncomfortably by the denim fabric, but she tried to swing a punch until she recognised the face of the man who had picked her up and spun her around. It was Giles. Giles who had pushed her forward with enough momentum to stake the vamp. Giles who was picking her up roughly. And unmistakably, Giles who looked about as angry as she’d ever seen him before in her life. She could have kissed him.
In this hell dimension, his age and appearance hadn’t been distorted as hers was. He was wearing an expensive, fine-weave grey three piece suit, with a lemon shirt and a blue and yellow tie. She hadn’t seen him in a suit, much less a tie, in a long time, and she forgotten how good he could look when an effort was made. His grooming and wardrobe had deteriorated badly into nondescript jeans and tees and shapeless layers since he’d become a gentleman of travel, but now he was clean shaven and wearing the Harold Lloyd spectacles she remembered from when she’d first met him at Sunnydale High. He didn’t look like he was about to do bumbling comedy though, on the contrary, he looked incredibly resolute. She must have been staring because he grabbed her arm rather savagely and pulled her to run with an exceptionally fierce determination before the vampires had time to regroup.
They ran through the streets and smells of Sunnydale, the coffee shop, the Laundromat, past the town’s one and only cinema, and through the gates of Restfield cemetery. Giles pulled her arm and she stumbled along, surprised at how much it hurt and how slow she was running compared to him.
A vampire made to jump them from the side, but Giles parried him headfirst into a particularly pointy headstone and carried on. They burst onto the street past the High School, and then ran past Xander’s parents’ house, and then the coffee shop again. Those three places were in totally different parts of the real Sunnydale but here, they obligingly rolled into a conveyer belt of familiar landmarks. They past the Laundromat again and the cinema again and then desperately broke through the gates where she found herself back in Restfield cemetery.
Giles hadn’t seemed to notice. Buffy’s lungs felt raw, and Giles hadn’t noticed they were being projected in circles. He was running like a mouse in a maze, only someone was moving the walls and forcing him to always return to the vampires. The very same vampire attacked again, but unlike Giles, he varied his approach and managed to crash into Buffy, wrenching her out of Giles’ grasp. She scrambled to her feet as a cloud of dust filled her eyes and Giles pulled back his stake.
“Come on,” he demanded, but Buffy had gotten over her initial shock and excitement at the rescue and defied him.
“No,” she insisted. “This way.” She knew he was locked into the grid, running in circles designed to bring him back to the centre point no matter what road he chose. Buffy couldn’t get much more than a small fist onto the sleeve of his jacket, but she pulled the fabric sufficiently to get him to follow her off the path and into the bushes. They cut through the shrubbery and she led the way down pathways and streets, diverting sharply to a random direction whenever she saw a familiar landmark, choosing side roads, and gardens, forging her own route erratically until she didn’t recognise the streets and the alleys, and the houses and tight brownstone apartments became completely unknown.
Giles looked confused. They had reached a suburban area but there were no cars on the streets and the houses were dark and abandoned. Buffy chose one at random, climbed the steps and kicked the front door, but its solid wooden door mocked her efforts. Giles shook his head and went to the basement level where there was more shelter and set about picking the lock. It took him about the longest two minutes of Buffy’s life, but eventually he succeeded and they dived inside and waited; side by side with their backs pressed against the door, their hearts racing in unison.
Despite the locked door, their basement apartment appeared to have been abandoned. The only decoration was a wall mirror, there was no furniture or curtains, in fact the windows had been boarded up with planks hastily slatted and nailed into the frames. Additional smaller pieces of wood had been discarded as inadequate and piled in a corner. Moonlight flowed in freely between the gaps in the windows and gave enough eerie blue light for them to see their reflections in the mirror. She was closer to him in height now, but it was still odd not having her own face looking back at her; the vampire wore that now, of course. As far as Giles knew, that thing at the church was the real Buffy to him.
It was very quiet in the street outside but Buffy knew the danger of trying the light switches and attracting attention so she remained still.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t in time for your boyfriend,” Giles whispered.
“Oh, he wasn’t. God, no.” She really didn’t want him thinking that. “He was …” She thought hard for a moment, struggling for the words to describe Ethan. In life she’d found him annoying, untrustworthy, dangerous even, but in death she found she couldn’t be petty about it. He had risked everything to make this journey for Giles’ sake after all. “He was just … a friend.”
“I’m Giles. Rupert Giles.”
It was wonderfully reassuring and old-fashioned to hear him introduce himself. That he should wish to observe social formalities at such a time was so beautifully Giles-y of him. She desperately wanted to hug him.
“Hello Giles,” she answered, unable to hide her joy at the words. She thought she’d lost him. Thought she’d never again be able to make that simple greeting. She wanted to preserve that sweet moment in time forever.
She was grinning at him like a lunatic until Giles coughed and prompted, “And you would be…?”
Ethan’s caution of having to remain a stranger to him returned to her. She took a deep breath.
“How do you do, Anne?” He gave a quick smile then cautiously moved to the boarded windows to peer out.
She wanted to respond ‘about a thousand percent better now that I’ve found you’, but was aware that in the circumstances, this would sound creepily stalkerish.
Her lack of big responses seemed to bother Giles because he turned back to her with some concern. “Are you alright? You took a bit of a knock back there.”
“Just a little shaken,” she admitted. Not being the Slayer took away a large part of her confidence in dealing with vampires. Her powers defined her so much that to the outside world that was all she was. When she’d experienced the loss before on her eighteenth birthday, she had struggled at first to find the strength in herself to cope. Giles had rescued her in his car and she had sat in the library, under a warm blanket and had felt safe under his protection. She’d wanted a father figure then. She’d wanted a man to make the monsters go away, but instead Giles had admitted his culpability and guilt and had sickened her with his betrayal. She’d had to find the part of her that wasn’t the Slayer, had to use that strength and intelligence and unexpected determination to win. She had learnt Giles wouldn’t play the heroic father figure for her that night. He hadn’t pretended it was someone’s doing, but accepted his responsibility and begged her forgiveness, not as a child but as an equal. She’d learnt that a lot of what made her a great slayer, what kept her alive, was about her, and nothing about ancient magicks and superpowers, and more importantly, she’d found the strength to forgive him.
Giles was back at her side and his fingers touched her forehead in concern. She had drifted in thought and he was checking for a fever. She flinched as he pressed her nose. “I don’t think that is broken, but I expect you’ll be looking through two black eyes tomorrow,” he said softly. His thumb brushed her cheekbone. “You’re shaking. When was the last time you ate properly?” he asked.
Tears threatened to betray her as she realised it had been a week ago and in a Chinese restaurant.
He was standing very close to her, closer than she could remember him ever being and Buffy wondered why, apart from quick hugs at birthdays, they had always kept a distance. However, her thoughts were interrupted by mocking cries from outside.
“Rupert. Oh Ru-pert.”
Both Buffy and Giles sped to the window to peek out and see the vampire version of Buffy walking through the middle of their street very, very slowly.
“Ru-pert. Come out, come out wherever you are,” she sang.
Giles was all business-like suddenly and selected a stake sized lump of wood from the corner. “Lock the door behind when I’ve gone and don’t open it to anyone, not even me. You should be safe enough in here. If morning comes you’ll be able to get out of town,” he instructed.
“No, you can’t go out there now,” Buffy reasoned. “I won’t let you.” She fought with him, slapped him, wished for happier days and strength when she could punch him out cleanly. “Don’t leave me again.” He had his arms around her, and she stopped fighting and implored, “It’s crazy to try and fight her on her terms. Think this through, Giles.”
Her appeal to his rationality seemed to work and bought her just enough time to swing her back against the door to block him. Before he could act further, the virtue of her caution became clear when the vampire’s two chief henchman slowly crept into view. They had clearly been holding back as a trap while their leader tried to taunt Giles into breaking cover. As they swaggered, they scoped for signs of life in the apartment buildings to either side. Buffy and Giles stayed very still together until the three had walked further up the street.
Giles accepted the situation remarkably calmly by changing the subject. “Come on, we should get that nose of yours cleaned up.”
He moved to the kitchen and began to search the units for any supplies. Buffy followed, a little embarrassed for her looks after her face first crash to a grave marker. She wiped dried blood off her top lip and felt the tenderness in the bruising. She realised she must look pretty ghastly, even if it wasn’t her face and nose. She wondered what Giles saw of the woman under the blood.
As if in answer, Giles pushed past her brusquely, and closed the kitchen door behind them, plunging them into momentary darkness before there was a strike of a match and he lit a meagre candle. It spluttered in protest and belched soot. Giles picked at the flame and wick with his fingers until it settled to provide a small yellow light between them. The faucet worked and he ran a handkerchief under it before handing it to Buffy and leaned back against a counter top, his hands stretched wide. The cold water stung as she dabbed gently and she hissed in places. All the while she was aware of Giles watching her by the warm glow of the candle as she worked. He couldn’t entirely hide the faint smile in his eyes though.
“Better?” she asked. He removed his glasses to his top pocket and nodded. “So what’s going on here,” she asked as casually as her heart rate allowed her.
“Ah.” He stiffened and folded his arms before continuing, “What is happening, is something that is entirely my fault.”
Buffy rinsed the handkerchief and returned it to him. “Why? What happened?”
“I know this is going to sound shocking and strange, but I’m afraid what you encountered before were vampires.”
She blinked a couple of times, unsure how to pitch her response. “Vampires?”
“Vampires and demons are real I’m afraid,” he said earnestly.
For a fleeting moment, she really wanted him to do the whole ‘since the beginning of time’ talk as he’d explained it to Xander and Willow in the library about a thousand years ago. But he’d stopped already, trying to gauge her reaction, waiting to see rather sweetly, if the shock was too much for her. It should have been funny, but she could hardly risk him discovering her true identity, so instead of laughing, she nodded solemnly.
“OK vampires are real. I get that, but why do they seem to have a personal beef with you?” He flinched at her insight so she quickly added, “I couldn’t help to notice the way she said your name.”
The effect was immediate. “We should check where they are,” he said gruffly. Pinching out the candle, Giles moved them back to what had been the main living area and began pacing by the windows. Buffy followed, well aware she was intruding where a stranger shouldn’t, but determined that she of all people, needed to know the truth.
“Tell me why it is personal,” she demanded. “You’re not going out again until I get the full story.”
He looked angrily at her at first before relenting with the air of a man who knows he is henpecked on all sides. Surprisingly, he braced himself against a wall and slid down to sit on the floor. Putting his glasses on, he looked to the ceiling as if debating with the cracked paintwork how much to tell her, then leant forward, took off his glasses off again, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“It’s personal because it’s my fault she was turned, that is, became a vampire,” he added with a charming, but wholly unnecessary explanation of the terminology.
Buffy knelt next to him. “What happened?”
“I was supposed to look after her. To protect her. And I failed.”
It was clearly painful for him to explain but Buffy had to know. She spun around to put her back to the wall and leant a little against his shoulder, asking gently, “How did it happen?”
“She had a boyfriend named Angel - somewhat ironically named as it turned out - and he killed her and made a vampire.”
Buffy studied her shoes. In Giles’ nightmares, that probably would be the way it would happen. He’d always swallowed his apprehension whenever he’d seen the two of them together. On the night of his death, his swift exit from her apartment at finding Angel there had nothing to do with the curse, and everything to do with his greatest fear.
Buffy didn’t relish encountering Angelus without her Slayer powers but if Giles could, she could.
“Where is he now?”
“He’s dead, she just… killed him,” he said bleakly.
Buffy was a little shocked at that. “Just killed him?” she clarified.
“I believe she said ‘thank you’ as she did it. I wasn’t there. I might have been there.” He played with his watch strap to cover his confusion. “Sorry, I’m a little tired and the details get hazy, but she staked him through the heart and said ‘thank you’, and that ‘being a vampire was what she’d always wanted to be’.”
Buffy huffed. “I seriously doubt that. The demon part of her is just messing with you.”
“Maybe. Anyway, since then she has taken over the town and all the other demons are terrified of her. All the people, the humans that is, they have all run away.”
Her fingers trailed over his hand as she asked, “So why do you stay?”
His eyes grew flinty for a moment. “Because I have to kill the bitch.”
“Because I have to kill the bitch.”
Rupert Giles knew it was his duty and his calling speaking, but if he hardened his heart and focussed his anger, he could hear his own voice too. All he could generally think about was what had happened to her, how he should have stopped it sooner, how he was inadequate at not being able to end it now. And yet here was somebody else in his life, and after weeks or months (he wasn’t sure quite which) of isolation, there was another rather remarkable woman who made him feel so much better.
The woman called Anne.
It was a welcome to finally have an ally after what had been such a long fight, someone to talk to. But it was more than mere companionship. She had been amazingly calm after stumbling into the horrors of his world, watching her friend die, and facing her own death, and he found that extremely comforting. Giles had felt like the only sane one in the asylum for too long and here was someone new who wasn’t blaming him for the mess he’d made. When he looked back at a lifetime of faults and bad decisions, he’d always had a tendency to panic and mess things up further, and it had often needed the calmness of the women in his life to make him see sense. His mother, his grandmother, Buf-. No it hurt to think of what she had been. He needed to keep his anger, feed his hatred, or he would be lost to panic again.
And yet here, suddenly, was another strong woman for him. Anne. She was warm and had beautiful eyes that were forever seeking his. He felt as though he’d been shipwrecked and had been fighting for his life in monstrous waves forever, and she was like some beautiful piece of wreckage that had floated up to him, something he could cling too and keep safe, offering a small hope of salvation till the storm ended, like a half remembered destiny.
Except the storm never ended and morning never came for some reason. That was a distant puzzle at the back of his brain and he was always too tired to think about it. He knew he was responsible for the storm somehow, and he knew he had the means to end it, but it was confusing and made no sense.
When he pulled himself back from his dark place, he found Anne’s eyes searching his face for what he was thinking. She seemed concerned for him, had taken his hand as if it were second nature and she was breathing only lightly and was oh so very close to him. He told himself he couldn’t afford to rest, that he couldn’t be that selfish, that this woman was in danger as long as she cared for him.
“I think their patrols have passed so you’ll be safe here tonight. I should really go.”
He stood to make for the door, but she was surprisingly faster and blocked his path.
“You can’t go out there now. You’ll get yourself killed. Wait until daylight,” she entreated, grabbing his arm.
He didn’t think there would be daylight. For some reason, he dimly knew there was never daylight. Night was the time of vampires, when the demons had their fun.
“You’re exhausted and there is no need to put yourself at risk. We are both safe here for tonight.”
“Buf-” he stopped himself from saying the name. “She is my responsibility.”
“And you’re mine,” Anne reasoned. It was such an absurd thing for her to have said, and he laughed for the first time in a long time, but she had meant it sincerely. “Seriously, you saved my life that means I have to look out for you.”
“You don’t understand what’s going on here.”
“I understand she wants to get you at a disadvantage, that the trap at the Church was meant for you not me. She’s pushing your buttons to hurt you, and you need to find a way to not let her.”
Her words were rational and logical. He admired how she seemed able to be calm at what would have been a horror movie to most people. She had a spirit that attracted him, an intelligence and inner beauty he wanted to fight for.
Anne drew closer to him and he felt the temptation to yield and lose himself keenly.
“Stay with me till morning,” she pleaded, her eyes flashing in the moonlight.
Giles swallowed and told himself he couldn’t risk losing this precious woman, as he would if he left to go outside and tackle Buf- the bitch. He bent to kiss the top of Anne’s head as a farewell gesture, but she looked up at him with a face of trust and the promise of fire, and he forgot himself and his hands were in her hair and his lips were upon hers.
She responded with fire and passion and snaked out of her denim jacket before chasing her hands to his shoulders, his biceps, his waist. Giles kicked off his shoes. The loss of height brought them nearer, intensified the moment. He broke free of her hands and slipped off his jacket with a thud to the floor, then he pulled and twisted at the buttons awkwardly on his waistcoat as Anne gently pulled at the soft sleeves of her blouse, and all the while they kissed. More clothing followed and they made it to the floor themselves with increased urgency until Giles broke contact with her lips.
“You do realise,” he mumbled. “That I can’t offer you much of a future.”
“That’s ok, we’ve never had much of a future.”
“Shh Giles. No talking. Not now.”Continue to chapter five...