A/N: Sorry for the delay. Still tying up residue of computer problems here. Did manage to post my Witch story on time at the lj community, and now have this update. Thank you for your patience. If you are interested in the Witch story here's the link:
(there may be a surprise guest in it even though the characters are Buffyverse originals)
Ben hovered over the unconscious vampire and tried to decide what he should do. On one hand, he had become a doctor out of a genuine desire to help others, to ease suffering. That led to the determination to see the valiant vampire get away from Glory safely, his secrets intact. On the other hand, Ben wanted to distance himself from the entire sordid mess. Much as he liked the Summers girl, there was little hope the child could be kept safe from Glory forever. Perhaps it was best to have it all over quickly.
Spike moaned as he swam back to awareness. He saw the improbable sight of the pretty boy doctor and knew his memory of Ben morphing from Glory had been reality. ‘Here now, Glory, the barmy bimbo, shares the same skin as Dr. Do Good? Best look into that before I pass word on to the Slayer. Bint’s not likely to just take my word on that, seein’ how Buffy was all purrin’ kitty for gentle Ben.’ Both Spike’s demon and man rankled at the memory of Buffy preening for the young medic while ignoring Spike’s own efforts to court her.
‘Might be smart to let on like I didn’t see the Presto Change-o gig.’ Spike moaned again and opened his eyes as much as the swelling allowed. "Glory send for a doc? Vampire here, not likely what you trained for."
Ben swallowed in relief. The vampire hadn’t seen the transformation after all! "Well, the lady didn’t seem too rational, all things considered." Ben feigned nervousness and backed away from Spike. "You aren’t going to suck my blood, are you?"
"Not bloody likely," Spike let out a snort of derision. "Not up to swingin’ a cat, much less chasin’ around some lunch. You’re safe." Spike decided it was best if Glory or Ben or whatever the hell this being really was had no idea that his fangs had been pulled by the last medical people Spike’d had the displeasure of meeting.
"Wouldn’t mind a bit of a hand though. Like you said, the bint’s completely crackers. Sorry, you bein’ a doctor and all, I shoulda said she’s non compos mentis." Ben smiled in spite of himself. "Be kinda nice to get out of here before she gets back. Be smart of you to make yourself scarce too, come to that."
"Think you can travel?" Ben offered a hand-up to the prone vampire.
"With a bit of help, yeah. Kinda got a lot of motivation, ya know?" Spike gave a pained, crooked smile to the medic.
"We’d better hurry. There’s no telling when Glo… the lady might return." Ben draped Spike’s arm around his shoulder and headed for the door. He would have to be crafty to be certain Glory’s fawning pygmies didn’t report everything he did to help this vampire. It wouldn’t do for her to think her answers might be as close as inside the brain she shared with him!
As Ben half-carried Spike from the building, Spike began forming a plan to hunt down those rejects from a medieval faire and ask some serious questions about Glory. Spike felt fairly certain that one of the Knights of the Padded Cell would have the answer to this ‘two gits for the price of one’ package.
Buffy went to bed as soon as Xander gathered his courage to go home and try to make peace with Anya. "Groveling is a learned skill. Luckily for me, I learned it years ago," Xander had said ruefully.
Giles, on the other hand, lingered over the best cuppa he’d ever had and the company he was enjoying more with each meeting. "Buffy is quite right, you know. You are a genuinely nice lady, as well as wise beyond your years."
Anne blushed and lowered her eyes. Was Mr. Giles flirting with her? It had been so many years that she wasn’t sure. "You are far too kind. I know full well that I am your elder, so you needn’t try to turn me up sweet. I’d wager you are merely trying to deflect any further lectures about my son with your honeyed words."
"Nonsense!" Giles responded honestly. "If you are my elder, it isn’t by much. Those years between your timeline and your arrival in mine certainly don’t count."
They laughed and compared ages, discovering that Anne was, indeed, a mere seven years the elder. "See," Giles exclaimed, "not a vast difference at all!"
They shared a companionable silence as Anne began to rethink her rejection of Dawn’s offer to cut, color and style her hair in a more modern, youthful manner. ‘Maybe there’s life in this old girl yet,’ she mused and looked at the Watcher speculatively.
Giles was opening up about his career as Buffy’s Watcher. It became clear that the man had many areas where guilt had taken root. Mrs. Pratt had heard many of these stories from the youngsters themselves over the time she had been in their company and knew that Mr. Giles had nothing for which to chastise himself.
"You know," she said gently, "in spite of your strength, intelligence and bravery, you appear to be secretly consumed with fear!" At Giles’ slightly affronted look, she hastily continued. "No, not for yourself! You are actually quite self-sacrificing. I speak of fear of letting down those you love. Or worse…," she trailed off. "William is just like that. He did everything he could to not let me down. As I’ve said, you really do have much in common."
Giles snorted and then looked a bit worried that he was in for a dressing down too. He relaxed a bit when he could see that Anne had taken no offense.
"That is the very trait that has caused much pain for William, and others no doubt. His desire to please led to his striving to be what that creature that changed him desired him to be. Those other creatures who molded and taught him would have found it easy to achieve the results they wished if they noticed his eager desire to be accepted, loved, cared about." Anne had a far away look of sadness as she spoke her thoughts aloud. "He had so little of that, you know, except from me. I always adored him, but…well, that’s of no importance now."
Giles was compelled in spite of himself to know more of Mrs. Pratt’s views on her son. "Do go on. You paint an interesting and remarkably unexpected picture of William that I’d not thought of before."
Mrs. Pratt smiled sweetly and took advantage of the invitation. "He’s doing it now, as you would see if you but lifted your blinders."
"Doing what?" Giles was not certain of Anne’s meaning in the least.
"Trying to become that which pleases. He is trying with all he is to be the sort of man you all-- especially Buffy--can like and accept." She noted the stiffened posture of Buffy’s Watcher and surrogate father. "This troubles you I can see. You can feel the attraction between them as well and that awareness has opened doors to all your own fears, hasn’t it?"
Giles nodded slightly but remained silent.
"Really though, why fear a change in William for the better?" Anne smiled brightly. "If you worry it will not be genuine, you need not. To begin with, he is good at heart. The descent into evil was the natural result of what happened to him. Evil can seduce even a human and you know that well, I venture."
Giles started to sputter a disclaimer, but Anne was continuing already. "I suspect you rebelled as a youth and it had disastrous consequences?" At Giles’ slight nod, she continued. "After you returned to the fold, no doubt with many ‘I told you so’ comments from those surrounding you, my guess is that you vowed to stay the straight and narrow thenceforth. You sought safety in the established rule of order."
Anne really had no intention of lecturing Giles, but it was past time to clear the air and make the man see what was before his own eyes.
"I’ve had many a chat with the girls and understand your feelings of responsibility about Buffy’s death at the hands of that horrid creature. Your world was shaken to lose a loved one in that way, even if but for a moment. You likely blamed yourself because she is your charge and you could do nothing to prevent that prophecy from fulfillment."
Giles became ashen as he always was when reminded of Buffy being murdered by the Master. He really should have found a way to keep her safe, to prevent the dear girl from having to experience the horror of walking to her death. Xander Harris should not have had to be the one to save her. HE was her Watcher, after all!
Anne watched the play of emotions on the man’s face and had a good idea of his train of thought. "Instead of dwelling on what you see as failure, note that Buffy IS alive because rules were broken! That prophecy was not permitted to go unchallenged. She lives in spite of the established fact that her death was predicted. There was even another Chosen called! Had you not ventured from the old rules, old ways in dealing with Buffy that might not be the case."
Giles brightened a bit as his mind tried to wrap itself around that concept. The Council had been clear that it was Giles’ unorthodox methods that had led to every disaster and near disaster that Buffy had encountered. Giles often felt a complete failure, an emotion even more painful because of his real love for the girl.
"Yes, but there were areas where I should have used a firmer hand. I let Buffy dictate, make decisions that brought catastrophe," Giles said with a shiver.
"I know a bit about her first love--a vampire, but one NOT like my William. I know that you set aside long held beliefs and accepted the relationship and that now you feel guilty for letting your guard down." Anne ventured a compassionate touch on Giles’ hand.
"Angel," Giles nearly spat. Old wounds never fully seemed to heal where those dark days were concerned. "I should have forbade her ever seeing him. I should have made it clear that a vampire, even one with a soul, was not a proper match for a Slayer…for any human, really."
"My dear Mr. Giles, you could not have stopped the girl had you tried!" Anne laughed in amusement. "Surely YOU are not so old as to forget the power of first love?"
Giles had to smile at that. "No, I don’t suppose she would have listened to me had I tried."
"No, she would not have. She would have had her relationship in secret and you would have been even less prepared for the sad outcome that has so tainted all of you regarding Buffy’s love life and vampires in general. Angel is Angel. He is neither William nor any other vampire; just as William is William and not Angel. Can you for a moment imagine a chipped, unsouled Angel behaving as my William has done?"
Giles wiggled his eyebrows and moved his head from side to side. "Not really. He’d have had his minions bringing him Initiative soldiers to dine on and would have wreaked havoc on us all."
"Exactly!" Anne thought she might just get through to this man that not all things were clear-cut. "What did occur when Angel showed his evil colors has caused much residual damage to you all. For you, it has caused anger and fear that has placed blinders on you. To be the man you should be, MUST be, you feel you need to build a fortress around your Slayer and this has made you stop trusting her and yourself. You second-guess your own judgement and completely dismiss Buffy’s."
Giles started to protest but thought better of it. Mrs. Pratt did have a point, if he were to be honest with himself.
"You need to learn to trust yourself again. Your Slayer is successful BECAUSE she follows instinct, not rigid training. This world is not black and white and you KNOW that. You also know that it is dangerous to deny the truth of it."
"But Buffy cannot be out there night after night second-guessing herself. It is kill or be killed and seeing things in black and white might let her age to full womanhood." Giles had given this much thought over the years and was certain he was right.
"But just look at where that can lead," Anne tried to illustrate. "Look at William: it was black and white thinking that led to monstrous choices on his part. When that female turned him, he was not a man any longer and thus had to be a monster, or so he thought, so he was taught. Look what the world nearly lost! I thank the gracious Lord that some part of William rebelled at this black and white view of the world. It enabled him to hold onto parts of himself that might have been lost otherwise."
"Yes, but Spike DID become evil," Giles pointed out.
"Sadly that is true, but never completely. Just think, had he held to the notion of limitless possibilities, perhaps he would have struck out and made his OWN path decades ago! What a champion for good he can be and could have been so much sooner."
"So you are saying that viewing the world in absolutes is the real danger?" Giles was appalled at the concept. He was dead certain that only by seeing Buffy’s calling this way could he hope to keep her alive. These were dangerous thoughts coming from Spike’s mother and Giles began to think it might be better for Anne Pratt to be out of the Summers home forthwith.
Anne saw the stubborn set of Giles’ jaw and a hardness come into his eyes. Clearly she was getting through to the man and that was bringing up all his defenses. She knew his greatest fear was losing Buffy to a horrible fate because of a wrong choice on his part.
"I understand that the Slayer must err on the side of black and white to survive battle, but not everything in her life is a battle," Anne said placatingly. "All I am saying is that you should give William a chance. Observe him and don’t make judgements based on preconceived notions."
"Are you telling me that all I believe, all the collected wisdom of the Council that I have been taught is wrong?" Giles snarked. His back was straight and his attitude indignant.
"No, of course not. That would be an absolute, wouldn’t it?" Anne teased a bit. "Most is likely correct, albeit I suspect much of that ‘wisdom’ you were taught is flawed. There is likely much knowledge deliberately withheld or altered. It is much like religion in that. You mustn’t throw away the baby while disposing of the bathwater! Embrace the core truths, but let your higher self see the subtle shades."
Giles openly laughed, tension falling from him once more. "I daresay Quentin Travers would love to see himself as Archbishop of Canterbury. I believe I understand what you are getting at with this."
"Take the Bible," Anne decided to drive the point home. "I love the Good Book, believe in it as any well-educated Christian woman does. Still, to take it all literally, you are left with odd bits of black and white such as seeing shellfish as an abomination or finding you are called upon to stone others right and left for their transgressions! It IS all there within the pages, after all, in black and white. But by allowing your higher self to see the shading, one can remember that the larger message in the Bible is that God is a God of love who does not call on us to hate one another nor to set ourselves up as judges. It does not invalidate the words in black and white nor change the original reasons for them. Yet what a harsh and unloving world this would be if that were all we did! You do not need to reject all you have been taught, merely use your fine mind to make your judgements. Open your heart and see all the shades."
"But if you are right and Buffy is drawn to Spike…," Giles felt a shiver of fear again.
"You really need not fear a re-enactment of what went before. Buffy has the ability to recognize the potential for good in William. This does not mean she would or should throw caution to the wind. Buffy is far too intelligent to do that and is even more cautious than you to do so after her first heartbreak. She would not enter a relationship all dewy-eyed again."
"So I should…what…sit back and watch?" Giles snorted.
"That is your title," Anne chided. "Mr. Giles, William as a vampire IS prone to evil, but he can and HAS chosen good. To see only the ‘truth’ of his vampiric nature and reject the reality of the individual choice is to miss the important part of the lesson. It is just possible that my William's love for Buffy might be the very thing to help keep her living well beyond the norm. Surely the powers and abilities he possesses as a vampire could be a great asset if she would but allow it. William would lay down his life for those he loves."
"Speaking of William, he hasn’t returned yet," Giles noted.
"I shall have to call him to task for that," Anne nodded. "He knows I worry about him. I suspect he’s in a bit of a snit that I didn’t allow him to witness my chat with young Mr. Harris."
Giles laughed, "Yes, Spike would have loved to have heard that! They get on like two pit bulls at a dogfight. Two minutes in company and the hackles begin to rise."
"I believe Mr. Harris will think on what I said. He’s a good boy at heart. I will need to speak to William as well. He often asks for trouble, but please don’t tell him I said so." Anne turned pleading eyes on friend. For the second time that night she began to wonder if there might be more than friendship in time.
Spike made his painful way back to his crypt, racing the sun as he sought shelter. He had allowed Ben to help him get as close to Restview Cemetery as possible without making his destination obvious. It wouldn’t do to let Glory/Ben know where he lived when not camped out at Buffy’s.
The bloodied and beaten vampire stumbled over a low tombstone and cursed at the late Mr. Dobbs for having the audacity to be buried right in his path. He heard a rustling in the bushes to the right and tensed for a fight.
"Come on out, you bugger, I can hear you just fine," Spike called in false bravado.
"Don’t hurt me, Spike! I just wanted to see if you taped the "Airwolf" marathon on USA Network tonight," came the nervous voice attached to the saggy gray demon. "Man, what happened to you? Did those demons at Willie’s get mad at you for helping the Slayer again?"
"Not quite, Clem," Spike sighed in relief. With his sweet-tempered friend at hand, he might just survive this night after all. "’Preciate a bit of a hand gettin’ home though."
"Sure thing, Spike. Wow, you sure are a mess! Do you need me to pick up some blood for you after I get you settled?" Clem looked at Spike’s injuries and even in the dark of night it was obvious the vampire was in a bad way.
"You’re a soddin’ miracle, Clem," Spike whispered. "Yeah, I’d ‘preciate that too. I need to lay low for a bit, got some leprous Lilliputians most likely lookin’ for me. Rather they don’t get lucky at the mo."
"Hey, I saw that miniseries about Gulliver! I didn’t know there really was a place with tiny people though. Sure is a strange world," Clem’s ears snapped as he shook his head in amazement.
"That it is," Spike agreed as they entered his crypt. "Clem, how would you like to be a spy for me, seein’ how I’m not exactly mobile."
"You mean like on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."?" Clem was excited at the idea of playing Napoleon Solo for his buddy.
"Anyone ever tell you you watch too much TV?" Spike bit his lip as the pain hit him from the chuckle.
"All the time," Clem said sadly. "Lost my last girlfriend over it. She was a Y’Blisk demon though, so I may have been lucky. I found out later that they eat the male after mating! Kinda glad I was hooked on "Melrose Place" at the time." Clem shuddered at the possibilies.
Spike described the odd Knights, who, like Glory, seemed to be looking for the Key and asked Clem to report back if he spotted any of them. He didn’t want to worry his mother, but he didn’t want to go to Buffy without anything to back up his information on Ben/Glory.
Clem headed out for some much needed blood and to scout for humans in crusader outfits, leaving Spike to work on his plan. Next on the list would be to find out if Ben was human at all. If he weren’t, then Spike could solve all their problems without having to worry anyone further. "If I didn’t have this bloody chip, I’d just drain the bugger and be done with it," Spike snarled.
If you are under the age of 17, please use your head and do not read fics that are labeled "NC-17". Parents, I cannot control what your children are reading, so please be advised that the majority of the fics archived here are NOT suitable for those under the age of 17.
I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I am in no way making any profit from this site. This is for pure entertainment purposes only.
Concept: (c)bringonthebloodshed.com (2004), Code & Design: (c)Diabola (2006), Graphics: Selene & Always