Giles was puttering around the library, killing the minutes until it was time to pick Buffy up for the trip to the Ice Capades that he had promised her for her birthday. Guilt weighed heavily on his soul as he thought about the ordeal awaiting the girl he loved like a daughter. He muttered in mild irritation about the Council’s refusal to tell him anything about the vampire Buffy would be facing, other than where he needed to deliver her and what time to be there.
The watcher knew very little about the actual procedures for a Cruciamentum - all he’d been told was that he was to administer the drugs that would rob Buffy of her powers and to deliver her to the agreed-upon site of her trial. He assumed that the Council arranged the trials to favor the slayers, regardless of their not having their powers. His confidence in Buffy’s courage and resourcefulness when faced with an ordinary vampire was the only thing that allowed him to follow the Council’s orders to drug her into a weakened state. That and his assurance that the Council would never deliberately set her up to fail; that they might not want to keep an experienced slayer alive and on the job, simply had not occurred to him.
He cast an eye at the rapidly darkening sky and turned back to his work area. He was holding one of the drug bottles up to the light, trying to imagine what it might be like for Buffy to gradually lose the supernatural powers with which she'd be gifted so suddenly when she was called when he felt a shiver go up his back. He turned slowly to find a completely recovered and obviously angry William the Bloody staring at him with hard, amber eyes.
“That what you used on her?” Spike growled, approaching the startled man and snatching the bottle away. He threw it against the wall, smiling in satisfaction as the green liquid trickled down to the floor and into the cracks between the boards.
“Wha- what are you talking about?” Giles tried to edge towards his desk where he had holy water and stakes hidden in a drawer.
“Talking about settin’ up your own slayer to be killed,” Spike snarled, backhanding the other man away from the desk. “That what they teach you in Wanker school? Make the poor little chits depend on you, then lead ‘em to their deaths when they’re too old?”
“What – what are you talking about? I’m not leading anybody to her death.” Giles covered his shock at being found out with righteous indignation. “It’s a simple trial – nothing Buffy can’t handle even if she is a bit…even if she is less than optimal.”
“Got all the faith in the world in this slayer myself,” Spike said quietly, “but I don’t see her taking on Kralik and winnin’ without a bit of help.”
“Kralik. As if you didn’t know. They’re sending her up against a serial killer – a vampire that was pretty much of a demon before he ever lost his soul. Don’t know quite how the Council got their hands on him, or how they’ve managed to keep him under control, but I do know there isn’t a normal girl in the world who can hope to survive him, slayer or no. Buffy’s one of the few slayers I’d wager could take him on – IF she had all her powers. But she doesn’t, does she, you miserable pillock? Now where are you supposed to be delivering her?”
Spike’s tone left no room for negotiation, although the watcher made an attempt to resist him.
“I fail to see what business that is of yours. Unless you’ve come back to avenge yourself against my Slayer for dusting your paramour last year and don’t want another vampire to beat you to it.”
Giles’ haughty tone and the tinge of fear on his face told Spike that he had no idea what kind of relationship his slayer had built with the former Slayer of Slayers and he cocked his head at the other man before answering.
“You don’t know your slayer very well, do you, Watcher? I didn’t come back to hurt her, you bloody idiot. I’m here to save her.”
“Save her? William the Bloody is going to save my slayer? From what?”
Spike’s eyes flared amber again and his face shifted as he snarled at the suspicious man.
“From the man she trusts to take care of her and from the tossers he works for. The cowards who send little girls out to do their work, and then kill them off when they get old enough to start thinkin’ for themselves. If you think they expect her to walk out of that trap, you haven’t had your eyes open, Watcher. They don’t expect her to kill Kralik – they expect her to die – painfully.”
Giles paled in the face of the vampire’s genuine wrath.
“No,” he gasped. “They wouldn’t – I mean, we’ve had our disagreements about Buffy’s methods, but they would never…” His voice trailed off as he remembered how often his superiors had complained about his slayer and her unconventional approach to her calling. “Oh, dear Lord.”
“Don’t think the Lord is going to help her,” Spike said flatly. “Now tell me where she’s supposed to go tonight so that I can get there first.”
“Suppose I don’t tell you?” Giles ventured bravely, even though his every instinct was screaming that this vampire could be trusted – at least as far as Buffy’s safety was concerned.
“I’ll kill you,” Spike said without flinching. “I’ll kill you and then find a demon to tell me where it’s going to happen. But that will take longer.”
“You might kill me anyway.”
“Definitely would like to, Watcher,” the vampire said with a feral grin. “But I don’t think the Slayer would be too happy about it.”
In spite of himself, Giles cringed away from the toothy smile, grateful that, for whatever reason, the deadly vampire facing him was unwilling to do anything to upset Buffy. He felt his stomach clench as he went over what Spike had told him about the vampire the Council had chosen for Buffy’s Cruciamentum and he was forced to admit that Spike was probably correct in his assessment of the Council’s intentions.
“They’re at an old hotel called the Sunnydale Arms. I’m to drop her off at 7:00. It’s already gone six,” he added meekly.
Spike nodded and turned to leave. “Tell me, Watcher,” he asked quietly, “Where does Buffy think she’s going tonight?”
The man startled at hearing Spike refer to Buffy by her given name before realizing what he’d asked.
“To…to an ice show,” he stammered. “She enjoys ice skating.”
“Yeah, I know.” The vampire’s quiet reply echoed in the large room as he disappeared into the darkness gathering outside.
With a sigh, Giles prepared to go to his Slayer’s home and apologize for what he had almost done to her. The realization that he would have been sending her to her death was the little push he needed to reject the organization to which he had been attached for so much of his life. Rebellious instincts that had been dormant for years began to surface and he found himself wanting to follow the blond vampire and make his own contribution to keeping his slayer safe. Instead, he turned reluctant feet in the direction of Revello Drive and prepared to explain to Buffy and her mother what he had almost done and why he was abandoning the idea. He left the question of why William the Bloody was so interested in keeping his slayer alive as something to worry about at a later date.
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