Title: In the Morning Sun
Length of chapter: 4,500
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.
“I’m afraid you have to wake up now.”
Buffy awoke in a moment of panic at the words she felt she’d heard before. She found herself on the floor, under the makeshift blankets of their clothing from the night before, but calmed when she realised she was still, most importantly, wrapped in quite a bit of Giles. She stroked the small hairs on the back of his wrist and kept her eyes tightly shut.
“Oh, but this is such a good dream,” she teased.
Giles gently pulled his arm from under her neck. “It can’t last for ever, Anne.”
Oh, Anne, of course, Anne. He still didn’t know who she really was. In her happier dream, she hadn’t been keeping such big secrets from him, but then of course, Giles would have treated her very differently had he known, and she would not now be enjoying the contact of his skin. The great irony being that he carried too much history of their relationship in his heart to have ever been anything but a perfect gentleman towards her, so perhaps there was something to be said for the novelty of being strangers after all.
Giles kissed her forehead quickly, then sat up and began to untangle their clothes. He dressed rapidly, buttoning his lemon coloured shirt and stepping into his suit pants at a noticeable speed. Watching as he tied his tie and shoelaces and slipped his arms into his vest, Buffy grabbed his jacket and pulled it around her own shoulders, and was rewarded with a wry smile before it flashed from his face and he went to window to cautiously peak outside. Daylight striped in through the wooded barricades and fanned out across the room, warming the bare maple floorboards and disturbing dust particles into a frenzy of activity. Giles stood transfixed in awe at the morning sky.
Fearful of the distance he’d put between them, Buffy went to stand as close to his side as she dared, without actually making contact. She was grateful to have woken up with him, too many of her first times had concluded with the rejection of an empty bed the following morning, but Giles, she sensed, had been awake for some time before he’d disturbed her. It was clear to her now that he was restless and wanted to be on the move again, but it was sweet that his gallantry had allowed her to sleep for as long as she had. As he stood looking in bewilderment at the day, she hoped to god he wasn’t regretting the night before.
“Is everything OK?” she asked.
“You made the sun come up,” he said, his voice both gentle and thoughtful. “It’s beautiful. I can’t remember the last time I saw it.” He unselfconsciously reached an arm around her and she leaned her head against his shoulder. “I really do think you did that for me.”
She wondered how long he’d been living like this, without the sun, without hope or help from another human being. He’d certainly needed contact the night before, acting from an instinct to escape the loneliness, and Buffy had responded with a need of her own, and everything had been simple and blissful. Now, in the golden rays of a new day, Buffy wondered whether he understood where he was, what was happening to him and why the world kept changing irrationally to hurt him. On the evidence so far, probably not, but she had broken him out of the destructive pattern once, perhaps it was time to try again.
“So,” she began cautiously. “Am I right in thinking vampires can’t hunt us in daylight? If so, that means we can use this to get away from this place without them following us.”
Giles tensed. “I have to find her.”
Buffy reached for his shirt buttons and gripped tightly. “You can’t. There are too many of them. It would be suicide,” she said.
He put his hand on hers. “I can’t leave her like that. I have a duty to stop this thing from spreading. She is building an empire. If I stop it now the other vampires will be lost without their leader and will crawl back to the sewers.”
That was what he thought was the only reality of his life. It wasn’t some game or test, or dream hell dimension. He thought he had to stop the evil from spreading and she realised sadly that that was a probably a cycle of reality that he could never break himself free from, not even in his life before this damnation. She may not be the Slayer in this reality, but Giles was still a Watcher.
“I don’t want you to die.”
“I’m not in favour of it myself.”
“I think you are,” she shot back. “I think she’s an obsession with you. An itch you can’t scratch.” Her words tumbled with more rancour than she intended because to lose him to a demonic copy of herself seemed preposterously unfair. Hers was a unique jealousy, but it still sucked. “Giles, this thing with…that vampire…This is something you can walk away from…with me.”
He stood resolute, not giving her an answer.
“Not even for me?” she pleaded.
His features melted, and his words, spoken so swiftly, took her by surprise. He didn’t know her, hadn’t recognised her, and she certainly couldn’t have expected to have made that much of an impression on him, but his single word both raised and dashed her hopes. She wanted him to notice her, wanted the night they’d spent together to mean something to him so very much. ‘Almost’ was close, but agonisingly, not quite enough.
He spoke softly again, “But I have work to do.”
Buffy nodded in recognition of his pig-headedness and matched it with her own.
“Then I’m coming with you.”
“No, you’re not.” His resolute glare softened with concern. “I don’t want to have to worry about you.”
“Tough. I’m still coming with you.”
Giles smiled with a shy sadness and brushed her hair away from her face with his fingers.
“You are a remarkable woman, Anne. I could fall in love with you if this were any other time and any other place.”
“And I could love you, Giles,” Buffy replied from her heart, before she added, “Though you’d have to be a lot less serious about your job.”
His eyes wrinkled playfully at her humour and he kissed her softly, leaving regret on her lips. He slipped his jacket from her shoulders and pushed his own arms though. Buffy sighed and fastened the buttons on his vest for him then quickly dressed herself. She picked up a suitable looking stake and slipped it in her denim jacket. “Let’s do this then, though I don’t suppose you know where her nest is?”
“Yes, I do actually.” He pointed to across the street. Buffy’s eyes widened at the sudden appearance of Sunnydale High School, manifesting ominously in the quaint suburban neighbourhood refuge they’d found. She also marvelled at Giles’ complete acceptance of the whacked out geography they were living in.
As they stepped out onto the street, Giles said hopefully, “With luck they won’t be expecting us and we will catch them off-guard.”
“Yeah,” said Buffy as she pulled the front door closed behind her. She had a very bad feeling about the swiftness in which the school had appeared, but she didn’t want to dampen his spirits. “Sure we will.”
They walked through the deserted corridors of her old high school cautiously, but by this time, Buffy had experienced enough of this Tivo hell world to have a pretty good idea where the final scene was going to play out. All the sights and smells were there. It was a stunning recreation of all the little details of the place and served as an aching reminder of a younger time in her life, when Giles was her Watcher, and somehow he, Willow and Xander didn’t get killed every week the way other people who had shared her secret had. Somehow they were the four who survived and defied prophecy time and time again. It had taken her a long time to realise that it wasn’t down to just her. She may have been the Slayer, but she wasn’t single-handedly keeping them alive. They worked as a team and looked out for each other, but equally importantly, none of them wanted to die.
She and Giles pushed through the double doors to the library because, even to Buffy, there was no other place than there to go.
The vampires had emptied a lot of the stacks and piled the books against the windows to keep the daylight out. Perhaps they were just as surprised at the appearance of the sun as Giles had been. Their hasty work had certainly made the place look very gloomy. The Buffy vampire sat on the main table, swinging her legs childishly.
“Oh look. The librarian has come. Were we making too much noise? Have you come to punish us?”
Giles stood menacingly still. “I’ve come to put an end to this.”
The vampire bristled with pleasure and then gestured towards Buffy. “And you’ve brought lunch for us all, how thoughtful.”
“No-one touches Anne.” Giles was angry and determined and yet outwardly very calm. He was bottling up a good deal of rage and hate. Buffy knew the signs. When he was too calm, it was a message to retreat to a safe distance, but the vampire dismissed the warning and smiled maliciously. She understood him too, of course, she knew his weakness as well as his strengths.
“Did you tie your white horse up outside?” the creature taunted.
Giles replied with ice, “You always did tend to talk too much.” And Buffy felt just a tiny pang that that hit home to her, but the vampire laughed it off. She swung off her table and began a slow teasing walk to square up to him. Giles calmly took his jacket off and handed it to Buffy, and then he passed her his glasses and rolled up his sleeves. As he did so, he didn’t look at her once, all his attention was on the vampire image of his Slayer.
The two favourite matching minions moved swiftly to the real Buffy’s side and took her arms. Giles glared at the intrusion but the vampire giggled.
“Oh we have to make her a prize to shoot for. But no snacking boys, not until after I teach the Watcher a lesson.”
“Leave her out of this,” Giles said coldly. “This is between you and me.”
His opponent happily agreed, “Always has been.” She watched him drop to a fighting crouch and purred with happiness, “Let’s see what you got then, Gilesy.”
Could Rupert Giles defeat a Slayer?
Buffy used to hand his ass to him royally in the library. At the beginning, when he was still stuffed with the importance of his role, they would train and Buffy enjoyed knocking him over, embarrassing him, showing off that she could do more without even trying. She hadn’t thought that there was anything he could teach her, and she grew in confidence, perhaps arrogance, at that fact. He’d adapted of course. Looking back, perhaps he’d learnt more from those early lessons than she had. He had varied his teaching program, had gone out on patrol with her and yet and not lifted a finger to help her actually fight the vampires, only suggesting improvements afterwards. Watching him calmly sip from a thermos flask while she had battled for her life was infuriating initially, but then had become strangely empowering. The vamps would have killed him brutally had she failed, but he had been indifferent to the risk because he had every confidence in her abilities. She wondered how much had been real confidence and how much of it had been an act for her benefit. He had certainly looked incredibly bored a lot of the time. But then again he had a deceptive strength in combat. On the few occasions when he’d scored any points in training against her, it had been due to feints and tricks that used to irritate the hell out of her.
So, Buffy knew he was a better fighter in actual combat than when sparring. With sufficient motivation and the heat of battle, she’d seen him give a good account of himself when it mattered, so maybe it had been unfair to judge him against the Slayer standard. After all, Riley had been pumped up as Super Soldier and he couldn’t beat her either. Of course, Riley always thought that with practice, one day he could, whereas Giles always knew he would be licked and didn’t have a problem with it.
Flanked by the two vampire bodyguards, Buffy could only watch the brutal exchanges in the library. Could Rupert Giles defeat a Slayer? On the evidence of the fight so far, the answer seemed to be no. Giles was losing quite badly and the vampire abomination mocked him for it. She knocked him down more than once, waited for him to get to his feet again, teased him with hope before kicking his legs away or grabbing his jacket lapels and sliding him across the big table into the stacks. Vampire Buffy in contrast, gave a swaggering performance, hands on hips, wagging a finger in disapproval, and it was all for his benefit. Everything she did was designed to humiliate him, and the real Buffy felt more than a little sick just watching it.
He launched another clumsy attack, determined to fight on when others would have laid down to die. It was a heroic gesture, but still destined to fail. Giles couldn’t beat the Slayer, he couldn’t kill this particular vampire, and it seemed hopeless for him to even try. His opponent effortlessly smashed him into a wooden chair that shattered upon his impact. He clutched at a piece of the wood for a weapon, but the vampire only laughed and kicked it out of his hand before striking a blow to the side of his head to knock him back to the floor.
Buffy watched with growing tears as the vampire skipped to the book cage where the more serious weapons were kept. Giles picked himself up onto all fours. He was breathing hard and took a moment to rest his forehead on the cold floor as his chest heaved to recover his heart-rate. He’d been cut above his right eye and the swelling was beginning to shut the eyelid.
The vampire took her time assessing the weapons. She ran her fingers seductively over axes and knives before she settled on a short, nasty looking, hunting knife.
“Let’s make this more fun shall we?” she taunted. Buffy tried to move instinctively forward but a heavy hand griped her collarbone almost to breaking point. “Oh, look the new girlfriend wants to come to your rescue. How sweet,” the vampire taunted as she ran the blade of the hunting knife teasingly across her palm. “There will be plenty of time for you later.”
Surprisingly, she then tossed the weapon towards Giles and it clattered to the floor in front of him, inviting him to pick it up. Very slowly, and full of suspicion, Giles retrieved it and dragged himself upright.
“There, now. I suppose you could try throwing it at me, but I think we both know that wouldn’t work.”
Buffy remembered her training sessions with Giles. Parrying throwing knives was commonplace. It was true he never actually tried to kill her, but she didn’t fancy his odds with only one blade.
The vampire had already reasoned that. “You’re going to have to get real close and stick that in me. Think you can do that, Mr Giles?” she asked provocatively.
Giles grunted an assent, but Buffy wasn’t so sure. He was tired, injured and making too many mistakes. He was holding the knife all wrong for a start, clutching it to strike downwards at her, when the smart move would have been to jab upwards rather than risk missing so easily and getting blindsided on the downswing.
He made his move and Buffy cursed his stupidity. The vampire ducked his clumsy challenge, grabbed a pinch hold on his arm, and bent the joint back before taking the vicious knife from his fingers effortlessly.
“Not this time, Rupert,” she chided, and then to Buffy’s horror, she stuck the knife savagely deep into Giles’ chest and twisted.
As blood began to pour everything suddenly stopped as in in freeze frame. The Buffy vampire stood static, wearing a sickly grin of triumph. Giles hung improbably suspended slightly off his feet, a knife in his belly, his face twisted with pain, but trying to not give the vampire the satisfaction of showing it. All the onlookers, the vamps and demons, had their hands in the air, applauding and cheering as if locked in a photograph.
Buffy looked around their frozen faces and behind her. The two rather burly vampires guarding her had not stopped like the others. Instead they morphed out of their vampire faces and shrunk down and out of the dark street clothes and, bizarrely, into expensive looking cream suits with white shirts and black ties. They still looked like twins, but were more human, around thirty years in age, and with flaming red hair.
The one to her left spoke, “Sorry to interrupt at such a tense moment but we’ve been meaning to ask for some time … just who the hell are you?”
Buffy looked at their grinning ‘oh so pleased with themselves’ faces. There was clearly a family resemblance in their smugness.
“You’re Glory’s brothers, the ones that cursed Giles. The ones doing all this to him now,” she stated coolly.
The first brother spoke again in amusement. “In large part he’s doing it to himself, but you haven’t answered my question.”
Buffy eyed the static tableaux of Giles and the vampire version of herself and decided against full disclosure. “I’m a friend. I only came here to petition you, to ask you to let him go.”
“Go? You mean as in ascend elsewhere?” he pointed upwards in mock reverence. “But we’re all having so much fun right now. It would be a shame to break up the party too early.”
Buffy bit her lip. “He doesn’t deserve this.”
“And our sister didn’t deserve to die at the hands of a mere mortal,” the other brother cut in. “The penalty was very clear. No contentment in his life, and then, we get to play our games with him.”
“So this is all just a game to you?”
“We aren’t the ones that choose the game. This one seems to be a particular favourite of his.”
Buffy didn’t understand. “You mean he chooses?”
“His subconscious chooses,” he clarified. “It’s very funny that you’ve come here, demanding we let him go, because he doesn’t want to go anywhere.”
“He can’t want all of this,” she said.
The first brother regarded the statues in combat. “He must hate her a great deal,” he mused. “I gather Slayers can be quite cruel to the Watchers.”
Buffy gritted her teeth. “Can he choose to end it?” she asked.
“Oh no,” they both laughed. “Nothing as easy as that. But he has it within in his means to end it. He just never does, that’s all.”
She frowned. “Because he keeps coming back here? To this?” Her brain worked the puzzle. “He has to kill her? In order to leave, he has to kill her? That’s not a fair. She’s a Slayer and a vampire. You can’t expect him to beat her in a fair fight.”
“We don’t,” the second brother scoffed. “He’s the one that wants to keep trying. I happen to think this is very fair. He killed our sister after all. We have family honour to consider.”
They turned back to the fight and Buffy watched in surprise as the final fight scene reversed itself slowly, reverting to a point where Giles still had the hunting knife in his hand.
The fight resumed only this time in agonising slow motion. Instead of waiting for his doomed attempt to stab her, the vampire went on the attack to humiliate him as much as possible. Giles was too tired to anticipate all the vampire’s moves, and though he blocked as many as he could, she was quicker and blessed with demon stamina. He fell to the floor and left a trailing leg. Buffy winced as his opponent stomped on his ankle and he dropped the knife again.
She shouted, “Your sister was as nutty as a fruit cake, you should be happy that she’s gone and can’t come back here to kick your asses.”
The fight stopped abruptly and the brothers turned to her in anger.
“Oh, don’t give me that look,” Buffy continued. “You kicked her out of your dimension, sister or no. You didn’t want her around. Now I respect you’ve had your honour to maintain, but enough is enough. You’ve had your fun with him. Roll everything back again, and give me a chance to talk to him, let me help him somehow.”
The brothers exchanged looks and smirked before replying.
“Very well. We enjoy a good sporting challenge, so you will get your one chance to make a difference. But when this ends, you end. Our games with him can be played many more times, but this is your only roll of the dice. We suggest you make it a good one.”
The scene suddenly reversed quickly and stopped at the moment the vampire version of herself was in the book cage and Giles was on all fours, fighting for breath. Buffy seized her moment and ran to his side.
“Giles, you have to kill her.”
“Why, yes, thank you. I had figured that part out for myself,” he snipped before groaning in pain and adding, “But it’s a lot easier said than done.”
“You could have knocked down at the very start when she was bragging to the suck-up crowd,” Buffy pointed out. He’d actually had a slim opportunity at the beginning of the fight and he hadn’t taken it. At the time she’d thought he was looking for a tactical advantage and had passed up the obvious strike.
Giles shook his head and started to his feet again. “I was too slow. I’m too old for her, too old to fight her.”
“No, you’re not.” Buffy had a hand around his waist to steady him. His words were absurd to her. If she had learnt one thing from Giles it was that all opponents should be respected, no-one was too old or slow looking to not be a threat. And Giles could be as dangerous as they come. He’d killed Ben when he’d thought it necessary to do so. They wouldn’t be in this whole mess had he not shown he could be a killer when he needed to be.
And the penny dropped. Buffy understood something that probably she was the only person in the world who could understand. Because she’d sparred and fought with Giles more than anyone else in the world. She alone knew the difference between Giles going for a kill, and Giles making it look really, really good.
“You sonofabitch, how dare you!” In her anger she pushed him away from her, causing Giles to look confused and a little hurt. “I am so incredibly disappointed in you.”
“Maybe he likes it rough?” chipped in the Buffy vampire. She had exited the cage with the same hunting knife, but had stopped to watch the fun.
Buffy raised a finger to her. “Excuse me, but this is my turn, so back off, bitch.”
“Are you going to let her speak to me like that?” came the pouty reply. Buffy ignored her, grabbed Giles by the sleeve and pulled him away from the teasing vampire.
“Why are you not trying?” she hissed. “Why are we even here if you don’t want to kill her? You should hate her like that, hate what has become of your Buffy. Look at me.” She grabbed his face in her hands. “Tell me why?”
“Because then I won’t see her face again,” he said quietly.
He knew. Buffy looked deep into his eyes and she was convinced that on primitive level, he knew what was happening. That’s why the brothers said he always seemed to want to play this game. He knew she would always kill him, but that he’d get another chance. He didn’t hate her at all, he just wanted to keep seeing her. It was beautiful and more than a little dumb.
Buffy stroked the back of his neck and dabbed away some of the blood on his face with her sleeve.
“You will see her again, some day, I promise you, but someplace other than this.” She retrieved the small stake from her pocket and gave it to him. “But you have to end this. She wouldn’t want to live like this. Your Buffy, Giles. Don’t let her down.”
He looked at her so intensely, Buffy felt he was boring into her soul and then he shook his head.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly before turning back to the vampire and suddenly launching a charge at frightening speed. Buffy noticed the vampire was quick to see the stake in his left hand, but he surprised the both of them by punching the creature with his right instead. She tottered backwards in her heels and he closed in with the stake, but she was still the Slayer and graced with more speed. Her actions were swift and calculated and with a turn of her hips, she once again plunged the hunting knife into his gut, twisted it in triumph, and watched him smash helplessly to the polished wooden floor.
Buffy gasped at the defeat. The vampire licked the blood from the knife and stepped over Giles inert body to face Buffy.
“What did you expect? He doesn’t know you, you’re nothing to him. It’s me he wants. I’m the one he loves. He wants me to take him, to make him suffer. He can’t get enough of my boot on his neck. And we have eternity to play games together.” She gripped the knife upwards as a professional killer. “And now this is where you get off.”
“You’re wrong,” Buffy said hotly. “He’s not like that, he’s-.” But her speech of defiance was cut short when the vampire version of herself exploded in a shower of dust. Behind her, Giles had dragged himself to his knees, clutching the stake Buffy had given him earlier.
It was his final act, to protect the woman he knew only as Anne.
“I’m really sorry,” he said before the life drained from his eyes and he collapsed sideways on the library floor.
“Giles! No, Giles,” she screamed but she was blocked from reaching him by strong arms across her waist. Then she felt a hand across her own neck, a snap, and the world went black.
“I’m afraid you have to wake up now.”