Transformations - Chapter 13

They'd caught him so easily that, even lying face down and half-conscious on excruciatingly dirty concrete, Giles still had the presence of mind to be ashamed. When was he going to learn? How many times would he get hit on the head and wake up in some terrifying, unfamiliar place? It helped not at all that he knew one of his captors--as with Angelus, such knowledge only made matters worse. To know, or at least to suspect the lengths to which Helena would go could only add to the horror of the situation.

Two tall, dark-haired women stood over him--Helena and another. At least he thought there were two: his vision was not merely blurred and doubled, but appeared like something that ought, more properly, to belong to a drunken, nearsighted fly. The pair watched as he finally managed to roll to his side, get an arm under his chest and raise up a little. He felt sick and dizzy, drenched in cold sweat, and knew this injury must be far more severe than the little bump he'd received that morning. When he touched the back of his head he found a still-oozing gash and his hair entirely matted with blood.

"Does it hurt, Rupert?" Helena crouched down. She wore skintight trousers of a sort of black leather he'd never seen before--had Giles not known better, he'd have guessed it was slugskin: the moist, crinkled stuff clung to the long, shifting muscles of the vampire's thighs. Her hand slipped beneath his chin, raising him higher, her skin, against his, cold, damp, dead.. "Feeling a little unwell, are you?"

"No. I'm fine," he lied. The amount of blood he'd lost earlier in the day hadn't been dangerous, but it had been sufficient to make him--to use Buffy's word--faint. He knew he could not afford to lose much more.

He remembered Helena in the last weeks of her true life: so dependent upon him, so utterly dependent. So lost and so afraid, even sheltered within the confines of his London flat. What was it she'd told him, then, over and over? Something about tea. Yes, that he must make the tea stronger, strong enough for the bitterness to reach her. She needed to taste the bitterness, so that she might know she was alive.

"Let's see." Without the least effort, Helena lifted Giles to a sitting position. The extent of her strength appalled him, "Hmn. What do you think, Maria?" Her voice rang with a hard, bright, false cheeriness.

The second woman, who'd much the same lithe and athletic appearance as Helena, squatted down beside the former Slayer. "Nope, he's a liar, like all those tweedy bastards." Oddly, having said this, she appeared to give him a wink.

"My new sister Maria says you're lying, Rupert. Why do you think that is?"

"I've no idea," Giles answered, in the coolest tone he could manage

"One of your pupils is very large, which I don't think can be right in this bright light--I can't see any of that pretty green at all. And the other is a little teeny pinpoint. Oops, Maria, there's no green in that one either. It's a sad, raincloud gray, which means that poor Rupert is either very ill, or very, very frightened."

"Hmn...I'd have to go with both, Lena," said the second woman. Unlike lost Helena, she did not appear mad, only uncaring, amused in a way that was nearly as frightening as Helena's cruelty.

"Would you? I'd have to say, me too. Of course, I threw him awfully hard--ya know, having a demon's power on top of my Slayer strength, it's so darn tough to be careful. Now we all know that uneven pupils are a sign of concussion--or maybe something worse. I'm a little worried about your health, Rupert." Helena's hand tightened on his jaw, bruising the skin.

"I'm all right. Quite all right," he said, without even knowing why. Perhaps because, again like Angelus, Helena wanted him to grovel. She wished to have power over him--but the only power she could possibly have was that of her ability to kill. Giles knew she didn't wish to see him turned--that in death she hated and was jealous of him, as in life she'd been needy. She'd certainly not want him around, for fear "her Emmy" might prefer him to her.

With a shake of her head, the vampire Maria wandered away.

Helena rose, regarding him intently. Her eyes went yellow as her features creased into one of the most repugnant vampire faces Giles had ever seen. With suddenly brutality, she kicked him in the ribs, flipping him once more onto his side.

Giles felt himself slip toward twilight, despite all his best efforts to remain conscious. In that blank, dark state he confused reality with dreams--did he dream of Helena, a vampire Helena with her demonic visage on, her breath smelling of old blood, and of the grave? Horrid as such a dream might be, to know these events were merely a product of his sleeping mind instead of reality would, in this case, would be infinitely preferable.

Giles could not even tell if his eyes were open or closed, for even when open the shortness of his sight gave everything a flat, hazy, dreamlike quality. He felt terribly thirsty, and Helena tormented him with water, just moistening his lips, then snatching the bottle away. After grinding the cut on his head against the gritty concrete, she would lick the fresh blood from his wound. Her body came down over his again. Try as he might, he could not prevent her from holding him to the ground, his arms pinned above his head. He could not shift so much as an inch in any direction Helena did not allow.

The vampire's cold body rubbed deliberately against his, in a mockery of lovemaking. She licked at his throat, then nipped him with her foul, straggling teeth. So far from being aroused by her touch, he actually felt his manhood trying to creep back inside him, back into the safety of his skin, where it wouldn't have to suffer that inhuman touch. He felt sickened, utterly sickened, the acrid taste of bile perpetually in his throat.

At least, when she'd kissed him, Drusilla had shown only her smooth, mad, pretty human face. Helena, no less mad, displayed to him her worst, and the torment seemed unending--until, at last she bit him sharply, sucking in a deep draft from the punctures in his neck. Giles half hoped that she'd lose control, that she'd drain him, sparing him the horror of being used yet another time against his friends.

Buffy, he thought, and tried to hold a picture of his love in his mind, the greatest brightness he knew to combat this darkness and fear: Buffy in his blue shirt, sprawled across his bed, her golden hair tousled, laughter in her sapphire eyes.

"Not enough, not enough," Helena muttered, settling her body directly over his groin, crushing him beneath her. She brought his hands back down, pinning the uninjured one beneath her knee, the other knee bruising his chest--she controlled him far beyond his ability to fight, even though he struggled, or tried to, his muscles locked in motionless rigidity. Her Slayer's strength, already tremendous had--as she'd said--been multiplied to an unknowable degree by the power of the demon inside her.

"Oh, yes." Helena grasped his injured hand between her own, turning it this way and that. Laughing, she stripped off the bandages, displaying the wound. "Oh, yes, Rupert, this looks painful."

He used all his control not to scream as she tore the gash open, beyond where the knife had cut, parting muscle, separating tendons, snapping bone. Angelus had taught him not to cry out.

The vampire Helena made a cup of his palm and drank from its hollow, draining the cup each time it filled, her tongue lapping obscenely against his skin. Only when he'd gone past dizziness almost to the point of unconsciousness did she bend to his ear again. There was no living breath as she spoke, only the chill of her moving lips.

"I want my Emmy!" she told him, sounding like a spoilt child. "Bring me my Emmy, or your Buffy dies."

"You shan't have either," he hissed. "Kill me if you like. I'll not plead with you for my life."

"Let me tell you what doesn't matter--" The dead Slayer surged upright in a single motion, her arm sweeping outward in a killing blow. She caught--Lord, was that Buffy behind her, stake in hand?--nearly unawares, knocking her hard against the wall.

Giles couldn't see what happened, but heard, distinctly, the sound of a small body sliding downward against the brick until its slight weight struck the floor--and then he did cry out.

"Buffy. Dear God, Buffy!" Why had she come, alone in this manner? Was she mad? Had she learned nothing from him? Weapons, reinforcements, a plan. Or, as Wesley would put it, "Preparation, preparation, preparation."

"How stupid is she, Rupert?" Helena sneered. "Emmy would have lectured me for hours if I ever tried such a lame-brained stunt."

Dark shapes, that must be vampires, moved outward from the darker walls. Helena leaned close enough that he could see her triumphant smile. "Take the little brat away, my beauties, but don't hurt her. She's our bait, and soon enough you'll have your queen."

"Let her go, Please, Helena." Buffy had struck hard. Was she all right? Could she possibly be uninjured, only stunned? "Let her go," Giles pleaded, in a voice he hardly knew as his own. "I--I shall bring Moira to you. I swear it."

"You swear." The vampire's face rippled back into human form. "As if you weren't a Watcher."

"I'm not. Honestly, I was sacked."

Helena laughed a little. "Sacked? Like we didn't see that one coming? Let's put it this way, Rupert: you were a Watcher. You have all that training, and you're clever and devious as hell. Forgive me if I don't quite trust you."

"For Buffy," he said, meeting her eyes, wondering if he could possibly mean the words, "I would do anything."

As soon as he spoke them, though, Giles knew that--no matter how he felt--he could not betray Moira into this. Not for their friendship, although that ought to have provided incentive enough, but because without conscience or remorse Moira would be too dangerous. Her training, her sorcery...he would merely be saving Buffy's life so that she might die in another, more horrible way. And what more could he do, even if Helena allowed him to leave this place alive? He had no Slayer, no support from the Council, nothing but a pair of teenagers and the two other Watchers.

Helena, whom he'd once cared for almost as family, stood over him, lips curved in her demon's smile. As a parting gesture, she trod on his hand, and ground it beneath the heel of her boot.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Buffy thought. Now she'd done it. Gotten herself caught. Not rescued Giles. Messed up Moira's spell. For all she knew, from the way the Watcher-woman had screamed, she'd messed up Moira herself--fried her witchy batteries or something.

Helena had been a Slayer three times as long as Buffy had, even if she'd been fruit loops for half of it, and obviously--if you didn't use Wesley as an example of her ability--Moira had been no slouch in the training depart.

So here Buffy was, for all her brave intentions--chained to a wall in a dark place, and it all boiled down to this: she'd rushed in like an amateur, like a first year Slayer, and Helena took her out like one. Giles must be so disappointed.

What was it her mom always said? Yeah, the road to hell was paved with good intentions. Buffy had meant well. She'd taken on vamps two-by-two plenty of times. A lot of her training had concentrated on situations beyond the one on one, and though Giles never exactly bubbled over with the praise, she'd known that she pleased him with her ability.

Giles wouldn't be feeling too pleased right now.

If he was still alive. She'd seen every minute of what the ex-Slayer had done, and she couldn't even stand to think of how icky it must have been for him, or how much it must have hurt. Somehow the quiet way he'd taken what must have been agony made the memory even worse.

"Giles," Buffy groaned, and started to cry.

"She won't kill him, not yet," said a woman's voice. "She may even forget about him, let him go." Yellow eyes shone at Buffy through the dark, but the voice sounded human. Normal. Of course, some vampires' voices did--like Spike's, or Angelus's. They sounded just like people, until they started doing their thing. "Helena wants Moira. That's all she can think of, really. And she is truly one scary bitch."

Buffy sucked back her tears and made herself laugh a little, to prove she wasn't frightened, even though she was. "If you're trying to intimidate me, it won't work."

"Uh-uh. Not really. Just letting you know the score, girlfriend. And don't worry too much about me--as lifestyles go, I'm not into the torture thing, and I'll try to keep Helena out of your hair. She's not exactly Miss Congeniality."

"I noticed," Buffy answered drily.

"Whatever. I'm Maria Del Ciello, by the way." The vampire lit a couple candles, sending flickering light leaping up the walls.

From what Buffy could make out, she appeared to be in some kind of storage closet. The chains that held her weren't any wimpy handcuffs, but something seriously heavy-duty. She wouldn't be breaking free anytime soon.

"Are you thirsty? Would you like some water, or a Diet Coke, or something? It's funny, but I just about went crazy in England--you practically can't get a Diet Coke in the entire country to save your life, and at the Watchers Compound--forget it. Nothing but tea, water and scotch. You can't even get milk unless you put it in your tea. Believe me, those guys aren't normal. It's good to be home."

"You still like stuff like that?" It seemed weird--but then she remembered that Angel had liked to eat, for the entertainment value, and Spike had smoked.

"Well, sure," Maria answered, and got two red-and-white cans from a cooler in the corner, slipping a straw into Buffy's. "See? I think of everything." She pulled up a box to sit on and held Buffy's soda for her so that she could drink.

Buffy realized she was thirsty, and slurped down a lot of the Coke before Maria moved the can away.

"It's okay to come up for air, you know," she said, laughing. "Just give me a clue when you're ready for another drink."

"Uh...okay." The vampire confused her. She not only sounded normal, but she acted normal too, just like a person, and a pretty nice one at that Buffy kept having to remind herself that Maria was a vampire, and a kidnapper, and she'd helped her crazy partner Helena hurt Giles.

"You probably wondering what's up with me," Maria said.

"Well, kinda. I're acting decent. Do you have a soul?"

"I have a demon," Maria answered. "You know that. Rupert taught you all this stuff: the real Maria's dead, I'm her animated corpse, there's a demon inside me, yadda yadda."

"But you seem--"

"The weirdness is, I don't feel any different. I drink blood. I kill, maybe--maybe not, I don't stick around to tell. I'll go out tonight, grab some unsuspecting person off the street--maybe even someone you know--and have a good slurp. I'll enjoy it in kind of the same way I used to enjoy a hot fudge sundae, and I won't feel the least bit bad. But I won't get off on it either, not like Helena. Helena really likes to hurt people."

Maria sat quiet for a little while. "I used to be scared of this, when I was going through training," she said at last. "One minute I'm flunking out of Watcher school, the next minute Helena grabs me off the street and BLAM. Instant vamp. It isn't horrible. It just is."

"You were going to be a Watcher?"

"Nah, I was really, really bad at it--the languages part, you know? Helena got me during my final exams. We were supposed to be doing a Slaying run--team Slaying--and I got a little ahead of the others. Grab, chomp, suck, that's all she wrote."

"So what are you doing here? What do you want?"

"Doing here? The Council sent us, sunshine."

"This would be the Watchers' Council? The ones who are supposed to be on my side?" Buffy felt dizzy.

"You bet." Maria shook her head. "They don't like to be crossed, sweetie. You should have figured that out by now. Do you actually think you were meant to make it through Cruciamentum? Slayers start to grow up, they start thinking for themselves, having ideas of their own. They either have Watchers whose loyalty is to the Council instead of their Slayers, or they have Watchers who end up dead along with them. In the last hundred years, do you know how many Slayers have actually made it past their eighteenth birthdays?"

Buffy shook her head.

Maria held up four fingers. "One: Mai Lin, back in the thirties. Two: Corinna, whose Watcher was Alicia Giles--this would be your Giles's grandmother. Three: Helena, who you've met. Four: you, Buffy Summers."

"What about Giles's dad's Slayer?"

"Augustina? Killed. Henry Giles, killed, vamped, slain." Maria leaned closer, the candlelight flickering across her face. When she wasn't in vamp-mode she was really pretty, and her eyes were a beautiful amber color. "I'll bet your Rupert never told you, did he? That his father took his two sisters from their school, and left them in a ditch somewhere out on a country road? That he came home afterwards to get his wife and son, and that Rupert had to stake him? His own father, and the poor kid was only ten years old. How do you survive something like that? I don't know."

Buffy felt tears spill again over her lower lids, and thought she knew: you turned into Ripper, and you looked for bad stuff, because, like Xander had said, that was how the world seemed to you. Maybe Giles had understood better than Buffy thought about how she'd felt, having to send Angel to hell.

"As for what I want?" Maria was saying. "I want to stick around a long, long time, and so I'm going to turn Rupert, and I'm going to turn you. Pretty soon now. Nothing personal."

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