Buffy ran back to her car. The drive had taken her three hours to the Coven but she was pretty determined to halve that for the return leg. She stopped checking the speedometer and simply felt her way around corners. It was raining and the wheels spun on the slippery roads in protest. Robin had taken Giles all along. How, she wondered, did he expect her not to find out? Did he think she was stupid? Or did he just not care? The Coven had picked up on their whereabouts, so of course the Council had. No wonder Giles had been paranoid: three hours in
The rain got heavier and mixed in with some icy snow, forcing Buffy to increase her wiper speed and reluctantly ease off the gas. Head and tail lights dazzled her eyes. Giles would react badly to being held a captive. She’d witnessed the effect the spell had had on him when the police had arrested them briefly. He’d been frightened to a point she wouldn’t have dreamt possible in the Giles she knew. He was solid and reliable and he didn’t deserve any of this. She’d tried to give him some space. Tried to respect his need for a gap between them and that had allowed Robin and his Council to tear them apart. The poor visibility hurt her eyes and the tears started to flow. The rain felt like an angry
“What the?” The ground suddenly shook the road violently. She wiped her face with her hand and re-gripped the steering wheel. A tree was slowly falling across the road ahead but Buffy pushed the gas and shot underneath. She was a
She noticed the black smoke above the tree line first. As she approached, it got denser until she swung off to the private road and towards the security gates. The booth was unmanned so she rammed the barriers and sprayed the picturesque gravel in all directions. As she rounded the final bend she saw the extent of the devastation. The fire appeared to be under control but one side of St. Hubert's had completely collapsed. Part of the roof wobbled dangerously as the rain poured off it. The peaceful grounds and well manicured lawns now had a five meter wide earthwork running from the perimeter wall all the way up to the house. Rather than twist around the drive Buffy took a direct line to the damaged part of the building. The car gripped the frosty white grass obligingly. It was a little late to be worrying about the state of the Council lawns.
She became soaked to the skin almost as soon as she left the car. A dishevelled Mrs Preston ran up to her and shouted above the rain and hail, “Buffy, thank god you’re here. We’ve set up a triage for the injured round the back. Can you help in some way? Do you have First Aid?” Her hair was free and raggedly. The rain smudged the smut and bruises down her cheekbone.
Buffy took her arms by the elbows. “What the hell happened? Is there anybody still in there?” she shouted, “Is anyone trapped?”
“I haven’t found Mr Robin yet.” Mrs Preston’s voice crumbled a little with the smoke. “He was underground when it happened.”
Underground? Of course this nice picturesque property had an underground dungeon section!
“How do I get down there?” Buffy shouted but the woman had already slipped her embrace and run off to help others. The burrowing earthwork looked to have undermined the collapsed east side of the building, creating a tunnel to the foundations of the property. The rain was shorting some of the electrics still. “OK. I’d say that looks a good way in as any now,” Buffy muttered and began to carefully climb down through the unstable debris.
Noises hammered above her but she was committed to her descent. She crawled and picked her way to an area when the emergency lighting was still flickering. She was relieved to get a reply to one of her shouts.
“Buffy. Over here. I’m stuck under this. Can’t… move this….”
She pulled rubble away quickly. Some of the larger pieces she had to lever with whatever came to hand. The ceiling above her groaned at the disturbance but she dug on until she identified enough of Robin Wood.
“I’m here. It’s going to be OK,” she reassured him. “How badly are you hurt? Can you move if I lift this thing off you?”
“I want to try it very badly,” he groaned. “Argh.” She lifted the iron girder up allowing Robin to scoot from underneath. She let go and it crashed heavily as Robin got shakily to his feet. He was a mess of blood and torn clothing under a film of brick dust.
“Are you hurt?” she asked again.
“No, thank you. I think I’m going to be OK.”
“Good.” Buffy smiled and then kicked Robin’s legs from under him. He landed heavily back amongst the rubble. “Now where the hell is Giles?” she snarled.
Robin groaned on his back and looked around with irony. “I think it is safe to assume Mr Giles has left the building.”
They cleared the causalities first and then dealt with the worst of the structural damage. At the last minute, it was decided that Mrs Preston should go with the final ambulance because the paramedic was worried about the shock and her heart. That no-one had been killed was a secret blessing to Buffy. The rain had stopped after having obligingly helping to quell the fires. Things seemed a little crisper in the air as the water turned to ice. With things returning to normal Robin took Buffy to the Control and Media Room and made instant coffee for them while an assistant fiddled with a VCR and monitor.
She wrapped herself in a blanket and sat with crossed legs and arms on the hard wooden chair and waited for the security tapes to be rewound. Her fury had been put on hold to help with the rescue work but now she needed to know about Giles and it was time to review the New Council’s handy work.
“And you had no idea he could do this?” Robin had asked her. “That he had this much power?”
“He hasn’t. You provoked him somehow,” she answered. Robin had lied to her and she wasn’t going to forget that easily.
The monitor flickered to life with counters and date markers. Robin stood and sipped his coffee. Buffy leaned forward as the screen resolved to lights and an interrogation room. She saw Giles without his glasses and in his shirt sleeves, manacled to a table directly in line with the camera.
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” said Buffy. “Was that necessary? He must have been terrified.”
“Yeah, sorry” said Robin ruefully inspecting the bruising on the side of his head for blood. “The poor lamb, what was I thinking?”
Buffy scowled. “You had no right to do any of this.”
“I had every right,” he returned bluntly. “You should have told me you’d caught him. You should have brought him here yourself. Have you any idea how dangerous he could be?”
“To lock him up here was obscene.”
He pointed angrily at the screen and said. “That’s the obscenity. This is
“And you thought you’d found the perfect place to lock up one terrified Watcher?”
“I was hoping it was capable of keeping him yes. What he’s become. I didn’t make this place, Buffy. Men like your Mr Giles did that. It is a place of detention and execution with incredible security, and yet he took it apart like it was made of straw.”
Buffy’s attention was drawn back to the monitor as she heard door bolts signalling the start of the interview. She focussed on the small screen intently.
On the screen Giles smiled and said, “Morning Wood” rather cockily.
“You don’t seem surprised.” Robin was a just a voice behind the camera.
“The decor just screams Council and who else would have the keys to the place? Where’s Buffy?”
“Travers did die when the headquarters was destroyed. That was one of our mystics helping.”
“I should’ve known those bastards would have escaped the slaughter. Making lots of new friends in the Old Council are you? That’s nice. Picking up the reins? Exactly where Travers and his kind left off.” Buffy hated to admit it, but Giles didn’t exactly sound scared.
Robin resisted the provocation. “It’s not the same. We are slayer-orientated. We have a different focus.”
“Found all the Council’s nasty little secrets though, like this place. And you’re not above using them. Bernard Crawley had the good sense to walk away from the Council when his slayer was killed. Now don’t make me ask this a third time, where’s Buffy?”
Robin drifted into view at Giles’ side and pointed directly at the security camera. “Buffy understands what we are trying to do here,” he said. “She’s upstairs, watching us right now. She didn’t want to be the one questioning you.”
Giles looked up and directly at the camera. Buffy felt slightly guilty watching the monitor even though the conversation had taken place some hours ago. It felt like he could see her soul.
“She’s worried about you,” Robin suggested.
“I’m worried about me too.” Giles rattled the manacles. “Is this really necessary? American high schools must have got a lot tougher since I worked in one.”
“This is not exactly a job interview.” Robin walked out of shot again leaving Buffy to concentrate on Giles. “Something has happened to you and I think we both know what that something is.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. My money is still on the Council.”
“This is much bigger than the Council. I’ve seen you in action. When we fought shoulder to shoulder to help Buffy close the Sunnydale hellmouth. I was taught by the best but you were a real killer that day, I said so at the time. For a book guy you had some fancy moves.”
Giles looked nonplussed. “
“Oh but nothing could touch you that day. I guess that was Ripper I saw.”
Giles grinned. “You shouldn’t read too much in a nickname. It was ironic.”
“Why didn’t the First have Bringers kill you?”
“You’d have to ask to the First.”
“I think it was because it recognised something inside you. Something even the First Evil thought worth preserving.”
“I’m just very resilient. I want to speak to Buffy now.” He looked straight at her monitor again. Buffy found herself touching the screen lightly. The glass was cold.
“She doesn’t want to speak to you.”
Buffy watched as Giles dropped his head for a moment. It hurt her to think of Giles thinking she felt that way about him. He didn’t seem to understand she cared. She was sure she’d told him as much.
Giles was back in the conversation however. “Is this how you tried to kill Spike? Always meant to ask how you botched that up.”
“This is really nothing personal. I actually kinda like you, but I have a responsibility to all the Slayers out there. I’m the one in charge that has to make the hard decisions. There are people out there who oppose what Buffy and I are trying to build here. The old guard, or maybe demons who just don’t like the way the dice roll, now we are so many.”
“We? You think you are important because you’ve pilfered the Old Council’s stationery cupboard? I’m not interested in your politics. Good for you for making enemies. Maybe that means you’re doing a good job.” Giles rattled the manacles. “Though I suppose it depends on who you think your enemies are. But what I see is a frightened man who has no idea what he’s dealing with.”
“Is that a threat?”
Giles dropped his head as if considering the idea. When he looked up again he was smiling. “Take this place.
“You’re always so well informed. How do you know this is
“Lucky guess.” Giles was insouciant.
“It’s a secure facility. We found meticulous records for every visitor and employee both upstairs and down here and your name never came up.”
Giles was quiet again and brooding. “I guess that sort of thing is easy to cover up when your father is Head of the Council,” he admitted.
“Your own dad thought to lock you up? Was there a reason?” Giles was silent. “Was this after Eyghon?”
“You’re awfully well informed,” Giles said quickly.
Robin demonstrated he could do sarcasm too. “That sort of thing is easy when you are Head of the Council.”
Giles seemed to consider for a moment before answering the question. “After Eyghon then yes, but not so much locked up as hidden. The police got involved, and the Council had certain viewpoints. After Randall’s death there was a lot of pressure on me. My father, well it was what you Americans would call an intervention. It wasn’t as sinister as it sounds. I just needed some time to work things out.”
“He must have been so disappointed.”
“I don’t intend to discuss ancient history any further. My father looked after me. End of story. He loved me and he did the right thing. If it’s of any interest my mother gave him merry hell when she found out.”
“You are going to tell me everything that I need to know, and I don't care how long it takes you to do so.”
Giles looked insolently back at the voice. Buffy turned to the bruised Robin drinking his coffee in the Control room. “He’s just playing Ripper. It’s a defence mechanism. It’s what he does. If you push him, he pushes back.” Robin just shrugged back at her.
His voice on the TV screen said, “Don’t worry Mr Giles. We have plenty of time.”
There was a crackle of static across the TV monitor and the sound quality dipped. Buffy heard Giles say, “I wouldn’t be too certain of that.”
The picture cleared and Robin said, “I can keep you here indefinitely. That’s a choice I can make and it isn’t even a hard one.”
Giles smiled broadly. “You can try.”
“Oh I can do lots of things. For instance I’ve been doing a lot of reading since I got the job. The Knights of Byzantium, dressy hellgods, monks, Keys, energy portals to demon dimensions. And Dawn, I had no idea she wasn’t real.”
Buffy felt a chill on her neck. Giles reacted sharply too. “She’s real,” he snapped. “You keep your damned Council away from Dawn.”
“Interesting that you want to defend her.”
“Why wouldn’t I? She’s Buffy sister.”
Robin walked around the back of Giles chair, back into the view screen. Buffy watched as he circled and spoke.
“When my mother died, her Watcher resigned from the Council and raised me like a son. He was proud of me, proud of every report card, proud on every game day. And you left Dawn in whose care exactly… two college girls and a robot?” Giles looked like he’d been hit by a truck. Robin moved to his other ear to continue. “And then Buffy comes back from the grave, not an everyday occurrence it has to be said, and you what? You write them a cheque and run the hell away again.”
Giles stammered, “I needed to get away,”
“Why? Oh that’s right. This spell you claim to be under. It's time for the truth. Something happened to you the night Buffy died, something changed and you don’t fool me; you know exactly what it is.”
There was another static charge and the picture weaved annoyingly and broke up again. Buffy could barely hear what Giles was saying: “I met
The camera began to shake as if an earthquake was breaking.
Giles said breezily, “We must do this again sometime. I meant it about
The picture went dark for a moment and turned to video snow.
Buffy turned her anger on Robin. “What was all that about Dawn for? And what the hell just happened here?”
“We wanted to provoke whatever it was inside of him. It seems to have succeeded.”
“So where is he now? Where did he go?”
“I don’t know. That’s when the roof fell in.”
“Brilliant. Just, BLOODY brilliant.” She deployed maximum British sarcasm in the word. “You’ve become a perfect Watcher. Half baked plans and don’t tell the Slayer anything. You’re as bad as the rest of them.”
“Well, why didn't you tell me you’d found him?” he snapped back defensively.
“It’s none of your business.”
“Oh it very much is. Someone has to be responsible here. You didn’t confide in me because you can't think straight about him. Face it, Buffy, you have a blind spot about the men in your life.”
“How dare you.”
“You are too close to Giles. You cannot see how dangerous that could be.”
“I’ve heard it all before with Spike and you were wrong that time too. Giles is not a vampire, he’s not a demon and he’s not evil. When I think of all the things he’s done… Standing at my shoulder as a Watcher should…. You have no idea what that man has done. He’s killed more vampires and demons than you can possibly imagine. He killed Glory in fact, yes, he killed a god! And you should show him more respect.”
“Oh, and how do you kill a god, Buffy? Because that’s not something I’ve ever heard of anyone doing.”
“Well, he killed Ben, the doctor, he was Glory’s co-host.”
“Gods don’t die just like that,” he hissed softly. “What if Glory couldn’t be killed? What if whilst your Mr Giles had his bare hands on the doctor, smothering the life out of him….what if the god took the opportunity to find a new residence?”
“What do you mean?”
“Glory is still alive. Giles is Glory.”